The damage grammar schools do -- a headteacher speaks out...

Francis Gilbert's picture
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John Stanley, headteacher of St. John's Catholic Comprehensive School in Gravesend, speaks out in this video about the destructive effect of the grammar schools in the area. His eloquent words about the potentially dire situation his brilliant schools is facing amount to a desperate plea for the Education Secretary to stop grammar schools from expanding. This is something that Comprehensive Future are campaigning to stop; please sign up with them if you feel strongly about the issue. As you will see in the video, it is harming the education of ALL the children in Kent, which is one of the few local authorities in the UK that runs a fully fledged 11+ exam.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBF5x-sPVeA
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Tabbers's picture
Thu, 24/05/2012 - 21:45

What a total hypocrite. Grammar school was great for him, when (75% were labelled "failures"), but now its wrong because 75% are labelled failures.

Perhaps local people are voting with their feet? If comprehensive faith schools were so great he'd be turning them away.

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 24/05/2012 - 22:28

Blimey where did you get the music for this vid Francis it sounds like a mash up of 80s micro games! Certainly creates dramatic tension, send a tape to John Shuttleworth.

I can't quite fathom what this guy is saying apart from just that his numbers are going down, since he complains that the expansion of the local grammar is effectively making that school less selective for intelligence in function. So it's not really about selection just he's losing numbers.

Tim Bidie's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 07:20

Expanding access to grammar schools seems to have been beneficial in Northern Ireland.

http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/7066

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 10:38

Tim - see my post below. The 11+ is now officially banned in Northern Ireland.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 08:36

I think his point is that what was possibly OK in the 1960s, is not appropriate now. His school, like all the other non-selective schools in Kent, is being killed off by the expanding grammars, creating a real "sink school" situation -- even more than you've got already. It's just not an inclusive way of educating our young people.

Tim Bidie's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 09:15

Understood.

From an outsider's perspective, increased access to Grammar schools seems to be a good thing:

'According to our basic estimates, a 10% increase in the proportion of students selected in elite school at age 11 in an area is followed by an increase of about 4% in the number of students who pass national examinations at age 16 and an increase of about 7% in the number of students who pass national examinations at age 18.

These effects encompass not only the direct effect of attending grammar school for the
marginal entrants, but also the indirect effect arising from the change in school context in both elite and non-elite schools. Overall, this paper provides an unambiguous piece of evidence that widening access to the more academic track can generate very positive net effects.'

http://www.parisschoolofeconomics.eu/docs/guyon-nina/guyon-maurin-mcnall...

To me, admittedly uninformed, the problem that appears to need addressing, through reform/extra funding, is the provision of a good rounded education, rather than, as you say, a sink school, to those who are not academically inclined but have other skill sets.

Mr Stanley's school, from the film, looked and sounded great; nothing like a sink school.

As Ben says, above, the only problem, therefore, seems to be that he is losing numbers.

However his loss will offer big gains to the pupils now able to attend the local Grammar School and sit on its brand new pavilion balcony.

John Stanley's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 12:59

That was exactly my point.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 08:38

Ben, apologies about the music! It's my composition! It's difficult getting stuff that's out of copyright; I'm just trying to get my head around all that sphere of things...

Fiona Millar's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 09:11

On the World at One yesterday the Secretary of State said categorically that selection wasn't necessary for an excellent education system. Actions speak louder than words and it would be more impressive if he actually did something about the existing use of the 11 plus rather than just talk about it. However it is significant that even if he privately supports the selective system, he knows it is political death to say so publicly.

David Smith's picture
Wed, 06/02/2013 - 22:02

And now we are going to waste even more taxpayers' money by putting up walls....£26 000 000 of money down the drain

johnbolt's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 09:46

Anyone who doubts that selective systems are worse for children should look at Chris Cook's analysis of Kent's results. Pupils from more deprived backgrounds do significantly worse than the national average. Only those from the absolutely most favoured backgrounds do a liottle better. Pupils from every kind of background do better in London than the national average and than Kent.

http://blogs.ft.com/ftdata/2012/05/21/on-grammar-schools-2/#axzz1vVK7H3vV

Tim Bidie's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 17:54

The evidence you cite is clear that selective systems are, in fact, better for some children.

Educational reform strategy should thus concentrate on improving outcomes for those who are not prospering under that system.

The parents who foot the bill will not thank any government for restricting places at successful schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 10:33

The 11+ was abolished in Northern Ireland although unofficial exams have been introduced by some grammar schools. Selection (or rejection) at 11 is as controversial in Northern Ireland as it is in England.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolreport/17370052

Research from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which considers more than just one country in its analysis, consistently finds that the best-performing schools systems in the world tend to be those which are the most equitable - they don't segragate children according to ability or geographically.

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/61/2/48631582.pdf (page 455)

Tim Bidie's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 12:13

Indeed.

The reference that I give above makes it plain that their research concerns selective schools where selection parameters such as the 11+ have been relaxed, as is the case with the Grammar school in Gravesend.

'The tracking of pupils by ability into elite and non-elite schools represents a controversial
policy in many countries. There is no consensus on how large the elite track should be and little agreement on the effects of any further increase in its size. This paper presents a natural experiment where the increase in the size of the elite track was followed by a significant improvement in average educational outcomes. This experiment provides a rare opportunity to isolate the overall effect of allowing entry to the elite track for a group that was previously only at the margin of being admitted.'

Thus relaxed selection criteria enhance equity in selective schools without any deleterious effect elsewhere.

My argument is that equity would be even further enhanced if the department of education concentrated the bulk of its effort on improving outcomes at the low end of academic achievement.

Everything else seems to be pretty much either satisfactory or good.

Taking a swipe at Grammar schools seems to me to be beside the point.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 13:13

The Northern Ireland policy to extend entry to grammar schools increased the proportion of entrants from 31% of the cohort to 35%. The grammar schools took in more pupils skimmed from the top of the middle-ability range. And, surprise, surprise, these extra pupils passed more exams – they took more academic subjects and were stimulated by the peer-group effect.

You say that the NI reforms had no negative effects elsewhere. This is incorrect. The researchers wrote, “...we find that the reform had a negative effect on average performance in non-elite schools, but not in elite schools, in spite of a decline in the average ability of their students.” So, when the grammar schools allowed in a few "marginal" students, the average ability in the grammar schools declined (but not by much - not enough to lower results) while the average performance in non-grammar schools went down.

The language of the researchers is revealing. They describe grammars as “elite” while other schools are “non-elite”. These descriptions affect the pupils who attend these schools – “elite” v “non-elite”, “first-class” v “second-class”, “first-rate” v “second-rate”.

In areas where grammar schools persists, this is how children are labelled at age 11, with the majority being in the second category.

Tim Bidie's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 14:59

Surely one of the axiomatic rules of any government strategy should be to reinforce success.

As you say, the beneficial effects on Grammar schools of relaxing entry criteria were predictable. This is clearly a good thing for all those students involved.

My reference however explicitly states that effects on non grammar schools were ambiguous.

The actual quote from my reference is as follows:

'Hence, we are a situation where the sign of the contextual effect of the reform on low ability students is ambiguous.

The decline in average outcomes observed in non-grammar schools may simply reflect the decline in the average level of ability of students after the reform in these schools.

However, it may also partly reflect the fact that students in these schools have lost their best peers after the reform.......

These findings confirm that the reform has been associated with non-negative
contextual effects in elite schools, whereas the sign of contextual effects in non-elite schools are ambiguous.'

These grammar schools are only elite in a purely academic sense.

That is why reform is needed in schools catering for non academic pupils with other skill sets.

Plumbers and train drivers rightly earn a great deal of money. So do steeplejacks. These professions have every bit as much job satisfaction or more than, for example, an actuary (defined as an occupation regarded as dull by accountants).

The key must be, through reform, to provide an education and a set of qualifications for the less academic that does not brand them as non-elite or second class, since, clearly, they are not.

I can't see why that has to be achieved by restricting the life chances of the more academically inclined.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 15:59

Tim - an education system should be equitable. It should be set up so that all pupils can achieve. The research you cited said that allowing more above-average ability pupils into Northern Ireland grammar schools had an "ambiguous" effect at best or a "negative" effect at worst on the non-grammar schools. Perhaps the researchers should have decided which it was: "ambiguous" or "negative". Either way, it shows that the non-grammar schools did not benefit from the so-called reforms.

Sorting children into "academic" or "vocational" at age 11 will not improve education in England. It will do nothing to address the very real problem of the underachievement of disadvantaged pupils. Grammar schools take very few of these pupils.

To say that the life chances of the "more academically inclined" would be restricted if they didn't go to grammar schools is nonsense. When grammar school pupils get to university they are outperformed by equally-qualified pupils from comprehensive schools.

http://www.suttontrust.com/news/news/comprehensive-pupils-outperform/

Tim Bidie's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 17:49

Janet- the evidence is ambiguous for low academic ability students:

'The decline in average outcomes observed in non-grammar schools may simply reflect the decline in the average level of ability of students after the reform in these schools.

However, it may also partly reflect the fact that students in these schools have lost their best peers after the reform.'

For the more academically gifted, the evidence is clear:

'According to our basic estimates, a 10% increase in the proportion of students selected in elite school at age 11 in an area is followed by an increase of about 4% in the number of students who pass national examinations at age 16 and an increase of about 7% in the number of students who pass national examinations at age 18.

These effects encompass not only the direct effect of attending grammar school for the
marginal entrants, but also the indirect effect arising from the change in school context in both elite and non-elite schools. Overall, this paper provides an unambiguous piece of evidence that widening access to the more academic track can generate very positive net effects.'

The idea that you restrict grammar school places and thus potentially prevent certain students from achieving their academic potential is profoundly inequitable in itself.

Every parent whose children are likely to be affected will rightly feel incandescent at that idea.

If a second rate image still attaches to certain schools, that is, quite simply, a leadership problem.

The fact that comprehensive school students do well at university is highly commendable.

However, the fact remains that if their parents wanted those pupils to go to grammar schools and the places were simply not available, that is a failure of the education system to meet the requirements of the people who pay for it, the hallmark of state provision in all sectors of the economy.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 25/05/2012 - 16:05

Those of us who live in or have taught in selective areas know very well how children are judged by the label given to them at age eleven. This is why it shouldn't be called selection but rejection. In a county like Lincolnshire 75% are rejected.

Tim, above, says that reforming "schools catering for non-academic pupils" is the answer. These schools were called secondary moderns and were always regarded as second-best with second-rate teachers instructing second-tier children even when they did an excellent job. They may not be called secondary modern any more - but the stigma remains.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 26/05/2012 - 07:10

Here is another study that suggests an expansion of places and a relaxation of academic entry requirements to selective schools may produce social and academic benefits:

'existing grammar schools have recently been given permission to expand, to increase their intake(Gardham,2011).

Permeating government thinking is a desire to give parents more choice and to give schools more freedom to operate outside the constraints of their local authority.....

What we can say with greater certainty is any system that does not guarantee a pupil will gain a place at a school of their choosing will risk being responsible for creating winners and losers in regard to who gains most from their schooling.

What therefore is important is to ensure that those who gain less are not disproportionately drawn from any one particular social group.

Our study suggests that the attendees of grammar schools in Buckinghamshire do benefit educationally from that experience but seemingly at a cost to others.

It also suggests that the academic barriers to entry into selective schools are such that pupils from poorer households are under-represented in such schools,suggesting a selective system is more prone to reinforcing social divisions than eroding them.

Nevertheless, grammar schools remain rare nationally.

A more common occurrence is one of geographical constraints placed on admissions to schools, of house prices rising around the most popular schools, and of resulting ‘selection by mortgage’.

Whether this actually is an adequate (or even better) system for enhancing educational prospects and for increasing social mobility is itself debatable (Burgess&Briggs,2010)

http://www.social-statistics.org/?p=525

A good, balanced view of what is undoubtedly a complex situation, without, as per other similar studies, any overwhelmingly conclusive evidence in any particular direction.

Evidence from Finland, previously discussed on this forum, indicates that remedial action at an early age by outstanding teachers can have a disproportionately beneficial effect on the most disadvantaged youngsters.

That is undoubtedly the area where government efforts and extra funding should be concentrated.

Arguments about rare Grammar Schools are essentially 'fiddling while Rome burns'.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 26/05/2012 - 07:42

Tim - I'm surprised you missed the warning at the top of the working paper that you cite. It clearly says: "Working paper. Not for publication, reproduction or citation. Just for interest!"

The extract you cited (although being asked not to) says that any system which doesn't guarantee a place at a chosen school risks creating winners and losers. That's why a good, local school available for all is essential. The Government can't guarantee that all children get a place at the school chosen by their parents - this would require the Government to fund an excess of school places, hence the need for good local schools.

The writer also says that because grammar schools have a low number of FSM pupils a selective system is more prone to reinforcing social divisions. The conclusion says that it's debatable that selective systems enhance educational prospects. Yet more and more commentators and sections of the media are clamouring for more selection (with its downside, rejection).

The Government has put in place a system whereby grammar schools can expand even to the extent of opening satellite sites (a euphemism for new schools). This will increase the grammar/secondary modern divide which disadvantages 75% of pupils in selective areas.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 26/05/2012 - 10:38

Janet - I am not an academic. I am not 'citing' the report, as you put it, to support arguments in an academic paper. I draw attention to it simply in case it is of interest, as it is designed to be.The readers here, who can google it for themselves, will make up their own minds on whether it has any merit as a document.

I note that you then go on to refer to the document, yourself. You should be a FIFA referee.

Your counter arguments are heavily qualified, as they must be, because the evidence available is all ambiguous/debatable.

Commentators/media clamour normally follows public opinion since most of them are trying to sell something.

The state education system has a duty to give the taxpaying parents value for tax spent.

If parents want more selection, then that should be what is provided, but selection for all, since all have skills.

Rejection, in many cases, provides a spur. It can be an energising force. It helps you identify where your strengths are as well as your weaknesses.

No citizen will progress through life without encountering rejection just as frequently as that other impostor, success.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 09:53

Tim - I referred to the extract you had plonked into the public domain. It is disingenuous to say that you weren't "citing" the report - you quoted it even though there was a specific prohibition. If you weren't citing it, then what were you doing? Saying that readers might be interesting in reading something you had found by googling is insufficient - you need to (a) establish its provenance as evidence, and (b) say how it advances your argument.

But let's see what your googling has uncovered. One piece of evidence which says that allowing more "marginal" (horrible word) children into Northern Ireland grammar schools had a negative effect on non-grammar schools. The second paper said that the advantages of selection were "debatable". That's what we're doing here, debating.

It is also disingenuous to say that because something is debatable then all evidence is qualified and there is, therefore, no need to discuss it. The extension of your argument is that no conclusion can ever be reached because evidence can be dismissed as "qualified", "ambiguous" or "debatable".

It is true that no one goes through life without meeting rejection. But rejection of 75% of children at age eleven based on two short tests is inexcusable. That's why parents of the 75% lobbied governments to abandon selection all those years ago.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 14:29

The evidence is clear. Selective schools benefit a wide range of academically inclined pupils.

Whether this has a deleterious effect on other pupils has not been substantiated.

All the rest of the noise, frankly, is petty party politics.

A debate involves deploying relevant evidence to support your case. Not much on view so far!

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 15:27

Can you publish a link to that evidence please Tim?

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 15:52

The evidence from the respected Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based on its data analysis of research undertaken globally show that the best-performing school systems tend to be those which are most equitable - they don't segregate children academically or geographically. This benefits all children.

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/61/2/48631582.pdf (page 455)

"Reducing school failure pays off for both society and individuals". OECD identifies system level policies to prevent failure. These include the avoidance of early tracking, deferring selection to at least upper secondary, reinforcing comprehensive schooling and avoiding segregation.

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/34/11/49478474.pdf

Grammar schools don't always benefit those who attend them. Ofsted failed a grammar school in 2009.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7959129.stm

It's claimed that grammar schools are agents of social mobility. This isn't true. Grammar schools take very few pupils eligible for free school meals. Just over 2% of children at grammars are eligible for free school meals compared with a national average of about 16%.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-17857324

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 19:49

The proposition above is: 'The damage grammar schools do'. My evidence indicates: 'this paper provides an unambiguous piece of evidence that widening access to the more academic track can generate very positive net effects'.. 'we are a situation where the sign of the contextual effect of the (selection) reform on low ability students is ambiguous.'

Your evidence indicates that:

The best schools systems are the most equitable

There are various (educational) policies to avoid failure

Grammar schools are claimed to be agents of social mobility but may not be.

Very interesting, perhaps, but not much use in assisting the evaluation of the proposition posted above.

Tim Bidie's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 06:19

Another contribution, from October 2011, states: ‘this example provides clear evidence that at least in some contexts widening access to the more academic track can generate effects which are strong and positive and does not systematically dilute the quality of education.’

http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/7066

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 15:53

With pleasure:

‘According to our basic estimates, a 10% increase in the proportion of students selected in elite school at age 11 in an area is followed by an increase of about 4% in the number of students who pass national examinations at age 16 and an increase of about 7% in the number of students who pass national examinations at age 18.
These effects encompass not only the direct effect of attending grammar school for the
marginal entrants, but also the indirect effect arising from the change in school context in both elite and non-elite schools. Overall, this paper provides an unambiguous piece of evidence that widening access to the more academic track can generate very positive net effects.’

‘Hence, we are a situation where the sign of the contextual effect of the reform on low ability students is ambiguous. The decline in average outcomes observed in non-grammar schools may simply reflect the decline in the average level of ability of students after the reform in these schools. However, it may also partly reflect the fact that students in these schools have lost their best peers after the reform…….

http://www.parisschoolofeconomics.eu/docs/guyon-nina/guyon-maurin-mcnall...

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 16:21

Tim - ah, your evidence is the Northern Ireland "natural experiment" that found a negative effect on non-selective schools. It also found that letting a few "marginal" students into grammar schools where they would have had access to more subjects actually increased the number of pupils who passed these exams. And allowing pupils to attend schools more likely to have academic 6th forms increased the number of pupils taking A levels - who'd have thought it?

More pupils taking more exams - more pupils passing exams.

And, wow, increasing the number of pupils entering the grammar schools increased the proportion of pupils in the "elite" streams.

An effective school system needs to have a positive effect on ALL students. See list of evidence above which shows the the best-performing school systems are the most equitable - they don't rely on widening access to "elite" streams by a small number of "marginals" (ie those at the very top of the middle ability range).

And widening access in the context of the English grammar academies hoping to open satellite sites or increase their pupil admission numbers won't allow in more "marginals". It will allow the schools to recruit the top attainers from a wider area thereby robbing more schools of their best pupils.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 20:31

The key effect on results is funding. So if you increased funding at the grammars to pay for the new children coming in but did not cut it to the secondary moderns despite them losing a lot of children you would of course see an overall increase in attainment.

But I suspect it's more as Janet suggests - a lot of children now being prepared for and entered for exams they would not have accessed before.

Do we have any information on what happened to schools' funding at that time?

Tim Bidie's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 06:09

Another contribution, from October 2011, says the following: 'this example provides clear evidence that at least in some contexts widening access to the more academic track can generate effects which are strong and positive and does not systematically dilute the quality of education.'

http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/7066

Other research, that can be found by interested parties at www.social-statistics.org, suggests that de facto selection policies, influenced by catchment area house prices, have a much more damaging effect on social mobility than simple academic selection.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 16:48

Janet - The academics make it clear that there is very little evidence about to support any arguments regarding selective education.

The one piece of good evidence that does exist is used in the reference I give above and just about every other evidenced discussion of this matter.

It clearly demonstrates the benefits of widening access to selective schools.

The effect of that widened access is not shown to have any clear disadvantages for those who do not gain access to those selective schools.

You clearly don't like evidence that does not support your point of view. No one does, but there it is.

If you have substantive evidence that supports your point of view, I would be very interested to see it.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 06:25

"The one piece of good evidence that does exist is used in the reference I give above and just about every other evidenced discussion of this matter."

That piece of evidence is lacking key context. I've also been happy to admit that grammar schools were of benefit in the days when most of society was written off and I don't think they were over in Norther Ireland then.

Please can be specific about what you mean by the other evidence - I'd be interested to look.

Tim Bidie's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 08:04

Other research, that can be found by interested parties at http://www.social-statistics.org, suggests that de facto selection policies, influenced by catchment area house prices, have a much more damaging effect on social mobility than simple academic selection.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 08:41

This is from your source Tim:

"Using a measure of ‘best in class’, evidence is found of higher and lower attaining pupils separating from each other with the former more likely to be enrolled in selective schools (unsurprisingly given they set entrance examinations) and also some types of faith school (which do not). The separations are evident between locally competing schools but with no evidence they are worsening over the period 2003 to 2008. This apparent inertia suggests the paradox of promoting school choice within a system that imposes geographical constraints upon that choice and may, as a result, simply reinforce existing social divisions."

I don't think it makes any key point to support your argument to suggest that grammar schools improve results.

Tim Bidie's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 17:40

My first reference shows: ‘According to our basic estimates, a 10% increase in the proportion of students selected in elite school at age 11 in an area is followed by an increase of about 4% in the number of students who pass national examinations at age 16 and an increase of about 7% in the number of students who pass national examinations at age 18.

My social statistics reference shows:

‘existing grammar schools have recently been given permission to expand, to increase their intake(Gardham,2011).

Our study suggests that the attendees of grammar schools in Buckinghamshire do benefit educationally from that experience but seemingly at a cost to others.....
grammar schools remain rare nationally.

A more common occurrence is one of geographical constraints placed on admissions to schools, of house prices rising around the most popular schools, and of resulting ‘selection by mortgage’.

Whether this actually is an adequate (or even better) system for enhancing educational prospects and for increasing social mobility is itself debatable (Burgess&Briggs,2010).'

Thus Grammar schools are beneficial academically for their students. They are now allowed to expand.

Expansion increases beneficial effects.

Negative effects are intuitive but not conclusively contextually evidenced.

Comprehensive selection by postcode is unlikely to be preferable.

The evidence is unfortunate for this post, but compelling.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 16:58

"It clearly demonstrates the benefits of widening access to selective schools."

Do you understand why the decision was taken not to widen access to selective schools Tim? Could you just explain that to me to reassure me that you do?

Tabbers's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 17:08

"It’s claimed that grammar schools are agents of social mobility. This isn’t true. Grammar schools take very few pupils eligible for free school meals. Just over 2% of children at grammars are eligible for free school meals compared with a national average of about 16%.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-17857324"

But the most socially selective state schools are not grammars, but comprehensives: http://www.suttontrust.com/news/news/top-comprehensive-schools-more-soci...

Hence, by your argument, as comprehensives are the most socially-selective schools, we should abolish them.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 20:25

A very interesting report Tabbers. I love the school A and school B stories but a lot is missing from them. The picture is even more extreme than that described because you get the ambitions and motivated parents who have children on free school meals moving their children far more frequently than the dysfunctional families.

So at school A (with the naturally posher intake) you get a substantial move towards that school being populated by children turning up in a state fit to learn and in school B you get most of the children who don't. The children who turn up to school A in a state not fit to learn get more attention (because there are less of them) and also benefit from the cohort effect (being pulled up by their friends).

So what happens at schools B? Well traditionally school B adapted to become a much more child centred school which teachers developing a wide range of sophisticated teaching skills which enable them to engage and settle children by they way they teach and by being able to personally command the respect of children rather than by demanding they are all still and concentrating before they start to teach. A lot of highly intelligent teachers flourish in this environment you actually tend to get some of the confident and intelligent parents recognising and respecting that and sending their children to school B by choice.

But that was then. Now of course school B is labelled as being a failing school, the head is sacked and the head of school A is brought in one day a week as an 'executive head' to force the teachers of school B how to teach properly.

Ah this all takes me back to a couple of years ago - when I stepped from a seriously respectable career into being exceptionally difficult to employ in any capacity in state education....
https://www.ncetm.org.uk/community/thread/73884

Not much has changed in 2 years has it? :-(

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 27/05/2012 - 17:18

The point I make is a simple one, supported by the evidence I reference above:

'Overall, this paper provides an unambiguous piece of evidence that widening access to the more academic track can generate very positive net effects.'

I do not say that I support selection or oppose it. On balance, I am probably against the 11 plus. But I defend the right of others to take a contrary view, particularly if the evidence supports them.

I simply cannot find any evidence to support the proposition of the post above.

If you can, I would be very interested to see it.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 08:58

Okay, so this is what happens Tim.

If you have a system where some of the children do not do academic qualifications and some do, putting more students into the stream which do academic qualifications will improve those academic qualifications.

If you read a book like Sister Genevieve: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sister-Genevieve-John-Rae/dp/0751532134/ref=sr_1... (and I really recommend this book for anyone - it's a lovely and inspirational read) then you will come to understand that Norther Ireland, at that time, was still in that world and of course had isssues of extreme sectarian violence to face too from which those in grammar schools tended to have some shelter.

However in England we decided that it was not acceptable to write off a bit proportion of our children from academic study at 11. So we moved towards creating large comprehensive schools which offer a wide variety of streams of study. This leads, in general, to a degree of selection at 14. Most of the school will be in academic streams (either pure academic streams or academic streams a single vocational qualification) but college, SEN and outdoor ed streams may be offered to those students who will clearly not benefit from an academic qualification at this stage. A substantial number of those children who access academic streams at 14 would not have accessed them at 11.

For these schools to work properly they need good teaching (and cohorts of able students) at the top academic end of each year so all students and progress rapidly in the areas they excel in.

Labour invested very heavily in the schools at the bottom end to try and make sure they were all operating coherently in this way. Tremendous progress was made but there were still issues in regions where many parents choose private education or grammars are available.

The problem with expanding grammar places is that you can very rapidly collapse the other schools if they suddenly no longer have viable top ends.

So to argue that increasing selective entry places will improve results you have to prove that this deeply pernicious and damaging negative effect will not happen. This may be possible in a town like Penrith where a lot of bright students and parents actively prefer the comp (I'm not saying whether it is or not - I haven't done the study). But in many areas it will not be possible because the schools students are taken from will become sink schools and sink schools create huge negative effects.

There will also clearly be cases where we have sink schools which would not exist if the grammers did not exist. Remember a useful working definition of a sink school is one without a strong academic top set stream. Although of course not all schools without this are sink schools as some are healthy community schools.

Tim Bidie's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 13:18

Interesting though it may be, this is received wisdom not evidence.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 08:34

Tim - reply to all above. See my post above which links to evidence which shows that the best-performing school systems globally are the most equitable. You say you would be "interested to see it". All you have to do is click on the links.

I am unsure whether you are being deliberately obtuse but I have already said that the academic research into the Northern Ireland reforms found that the strategy had a negative effect on non-grammars. The "positive net effects" which you constantly cite are a consequence of moving a small number of pupils from one type of school (secondary modern) which offered fewer academic exams to another type of school(grammars) which offered more academic exams. The result: this small number took more exams and the "positive net effects" = more exams passed.

You are correct in saying that a school's intake is affected by its geographical location. That's why the best-performing schools sytems don't separate children academically or by virtue of where they live. Follow the link below. I've given you the page number so you don't have to plough through the whole document. You'll also find that the link goes directly to the source and doesn't require readers to choose options from a home page which, when found, can only be accessed by registration and log in (this is the case with the link you provided to http://www.social-statistics.org/).

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/61/2/48631582.pdf (p 455)

Tim Bidie's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 13:15

The proposition above is: ‘The damage grammar schools do’. My evidence indicates: ‘this paper provides an unambiguous piece of evidence that widening access to the more academic track can generate very positive net effects’.. ‘we are a situation where the sign of the contextual effect of the (selection) reform on low ability students is ambiguous.’

Your evidence indicates that:

The best schools systems are the most equitable

There are various (educational) policies to avoid failure

Grammar schools are claimed to be agents of social mobility but may not be.

Interesting, perhaps, but not much use in assisting the evaluation of the proposition posted above.

You may have 'said that the academic research into the Northern Ireland reforms found that the strategy had a negative effect on non-grammars' but that research also indicates that:

'‘the sign of the contextual effect of the reform on low ability students is ambiguous. The decline in average outcomes observed in non-grammar schools may simply reflect the decline in the average level of ability of students after the reform in these schools.'

as I have previously observed, thus a definite positive effect and no unambiguous contextual effect on low ability students.

I can tell you are struggling on this one.

I'm not surprised.

Many others have also found it impossible to reference contextually negative effects of Grammar schools, intuitive though it may be.

But then we have to rely on evidence, don't we.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 10:52

The odd thing in these debates is that Janet and Rebecca seem agreed that ( I paraphrase) we shouldn't divide students into academic/vocational tracks at age 11 when discussing grammar schools, but take the opposite view when discussing the EBacc.

Why is this?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 11:14

I was under the impression that EBacc was a suite of GCSE subjects which begin after age 14 when pupils have chosen their options for Key Stage 4. Please correct me if EBacc now begins at age eleven and children are expected to choose options at the end of Key Stage 2.

You'll have to help me out - please let me know where I have discussed EBacc in the context of streaming. If there has been any misunderstanding then I will clarify any confusion. However, we're not discussing pupils choosing options at the end of Key Stage 3, this thread is about schools selecting and rejecting pupils based on a test taken at age ten.

OECD concludes (based on its research) that streaming where it occurs should be delayed until upper secondary (which is age 16 is many countries, but age 14 in the UK). However, it doesn't follow that because I agree that 14- year-olds should be able to choose their options, some of which will be academic, or streamed, or vocational, that I agree with a system that rejects 75% of children at age 10.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 11:44

My views about the Ebacc are just practical ones Ricky. I'm not into idealism at all and I am open to being contradicted on any of my points. But as I attend union meetings and talk to more and more people I am not being contradicted.

Teenagers are hard to engage and hard to teach well. Most of them are not mini adults - they are hormonal, the are easily bored and they struggle with the relentless bells and changes of lesson. They are much easier to teach well if they have a vision of themselves in the future which they believe in and are pursuing it. For some children that vision is university and an academic curriculum is great for them, but even for them I am not happy with the ebacc because of its composition. When I was at school we were capped at doing 8 GCSEs because it was thought that children needed time and energy to do other things. This was true. It's clearly true. It's always been true. I was at Cambridge with lots of students who'd done 12 but I wasn't at a disadvantage at all. I hadn't done history or geography but loved both subjects all the more for having studied them in an informal rather than a formal way. Not having done them made not a jot of difference to my ability to study history and philosophy of science well. I also think that best practice in teaching language is changing and the Ebacc doesn't recognise that.

But for most of the children who are having to do French and history instead of a vocational subject of their choice it's an absolute disaster. Many of them will simply hate school, will be disaffected and will underachieve in core subjects because they don't see the point of any of it.

Schools do an incredible job in 'bringing up' many, many teenagers who have little or no parenting as well as guiding many who have good parenting. They need the freedom to be able to do what they know works and is right for their students.

Michael Gove seems to think that everyone should be going to university but no-one else thinks that - not the parents, not the students, not the teachers. They all understand the enormous challenged involved in getting many of these children through their teenage years without major disasters such as addiction, arrest, crime, suicide and so on and getting them out the other end of school into a decent start in life. A large bulk of society doesn't give a stuff about a child getting a B instead of a C at GCSE - they'd much rather the child was spending time becoming confident about their future after school, growing up and becoming someone with self-respect who will function well in society. And why shouldn't they want that for their children?

I also don't like meeting all the excellent teachers of vocations subjects, RE, art and so-one who are being laid off and being replaced with teachers with little experience who will be teaching teenagers subjects they don't want to learn.

And finally I hate the way whole bodies of staff are being forced to do this without consultation by bullying heads who do not allow discussion. That should not be going on. When I started in teacher heads discussed stuff with their staff and won their point on the grounds that what they were suggesting was in the best interest of their children. Now they are making decisions which are not in the best interests of the children they are having to bully their staff and get rid of those who raise objections instead. It's horrible to watch.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 11:39

I'm not entirely sure what that answer means, Janet.

Is it that you think children should be split into vocational/academic tracks at 14, then?

Why 14, and not 16?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 28/05/2012 - 12:17

Doing a vocational GCSE is not the same as taking a vocational track Ricky. In general only those students who are not going to get their 5 GCSEs are being offered a vocational track at 14.

'Vocational' GCSEs are academic exams which academically study an area of life which is of relevance to jobs.

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