A recent remark made by Fiona where she said some schools are penalised by working “in fully selective areas with highly skewed intakes, yet they are being expected to compete on a level playing field with schools that either have grammar or more comprehensive intakes” got me thinking.
I would like to flag up the Secondary Modern school, Hillview For Girls
, Tonbridge, the town where my nieces live. They are fraternal twins currently attending a local primary school and they have differing academic abilities so it is possible that one, or even both, could attend this school depending on the 11+ outcome. They have the misfortune to be born right at the end of August which makes them the youngest in the school year and at a slight academic disadvantage.
Their parents are not unsupportive of the grammar school system which I’m sure is influenced by having such an excellent secondary modern as an insurance against 11+ failure. Whether their tolerance of the arrangement would be as strong if they lived in the more deprived Medway or Thanet towns in the county where there is a big disparity in the exam performance of the different types of state secondary schools is more doubtful. Their situation is further complicated because, unlike most Kent towns, nearby Sevenoaks has no grammar school.
So when Fiona goes on to say that “many of these (default) schools do an outstanding job in ensuring their pupils make good progress which is often better than their neighbouring grammars” I would like to also add “and public schools.” Hillview has a 65% pass rate for 5 or more GCSE (inc English and Maths) and also has a 6th form which admits boys where students can take vocational courses, BTEC and A’levels including Maths Physics and Languages, where the average pupil entry score is over 200.
These indicators either come close to or even beating half a dozen mainstream public schools in the county where the iGCSE is not on their curriculum (so we’re not talking about the Premier League, highly selective institutions like Tonbridge, Sevenoaks and Kings Canterbury). Bearing in mind that although these public schools probably do take a proportion of 11+ failures they also offer scholarships and bursaries to more talented pupils as well as admitting pupils who didn’t take the 11+ having come straight from prep schools or continue to enrol those who joined at an earlier age. Facing this uphill playing field I think Hillview has done an excellent job in maximising their pupils potential including the 10% with special needs, in view of their earlier exam disappointment and the lack of resources that are available to their private school counterparts.
Despite their relative affluence my brother and his wife will not be digging into their savings for private education in the event that one or both of their daughters don’t secure a grammar school place.