middle class parents don't realise the transformation which has taken place in state schools in the last 15 years

Kate Malleson's picture
Most parents seem happy to send their children to their local primary school. The problems arise at the secondary school stage where we all join in a collective hysteria based on a belief that most comprehensives have low academic and behavioural standards. The fear is that our children will underachieve and be drawn into a world of 'street culture'. These fears are often based on our memory of some of our local schools in the 1980s. I shared these fears when looking around for a school in South London in 2002 for our three children who had gone to our local primary very happily. At first glance, our comprehensive in Streatham, Dunraven School, didn't look or feel much like the grammar school I went to and I had my reservations. But once they were there, it became apparent that the standards of teaching and the management of the school were superb. Indeed much better than some of the rather hit or miss teaching which I had received at my academically elite school. Yes, the culture is different from a grammar school or a private school. It is genuinely diverse, which means that all the pupils didn't look exactly like my kids or come from exactly the same background. But feeling comfortable about this was our problem; it not a problem for our children who all flourished, both socially and academically at Dunraven. At the time we sent our children to Dunraven when so many of our friends were bailing out into the private system I felt we were taking a risk. In fact, we were being given a wonderful opportunity which has given our children a great start in life.
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Terry Daniels's picture
Wed, 13/10/2010 - 10:51

The improvement in the comprehensive schools local to me has been tremendous in the last ten years. The school my son attends was once a secondary modern school avoided by the middle class. Now it has students going to Oxbridge. My hope is that the continuing improvement of the state schools will cause more upper middle class parents to choose them, rather than spend thousands of pounds on the fees charged by public schools. Only by eliminating the malign establishment bias to the public schools will full opportunity for all be achieved.

Andrew Hampton's picture
Wed, 13/10/2010 - 10:56

I agree that Dunraven is an excellent school. I went to visit it in the early naughties and found many genuinely good things happening. The challenge is to bring other schools up to their standard.

Fiona McWilliam's picture
Tue, 29/10/2013 - 08:45

I've already posted this on another stream, but actually think it has more relevance here: The problem is that too many parents think they would be subjecting their children to a potentially damaging social experiment without actually investigating what’s really on offer at their local, non-selective comprehensive school. Also, they need to have more confidence in themselves as parents – children, after all, spend more time at home than they do at school. I initially fell into this trap, but without funds for educating my children privately I was “forced to settle” for my local comprehensive schools here in Brighton. And how glad I am now that I did. OK my children, especially my daughters, have had (and one is still having) periods of behaving badly, but they’re also hugely well supported by excellent teaching and pastoral staff at large comprehensive schools (Dorothy Stringer and Varndean) that achieve good results. My eldest is now reading biology at a top university and my younger children are, I believe, developing into similarly interesting, enquiring and well-rounded individuals who are capable of mixing with, and befriending, children from all backgrounds. I truly believe now that a nationally adopted, genuinely non-selective education system is the only chance this country has of thriving and maximising our enormous creative potential; and in so doing maximising opportunities for all children from all backgrounds. This includes those from the burgeoning (non-working) “under-class”, as a genuinely mixed intake would help prevent the formation of low-achieving/poor ghetto schools. A significant problem today as I see it, is the fact that too many children don’t see the point of education – just as they don’t see the point in voting. It’s as is they feel excluded or disenfranchised from society. But who can blame them when education has done nothing to improve the lot of their parents and grandparents?

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