It is always interesting to see what the other side is thinking so this
document makes a fascinating read. It is the January newsletter of the Grammar School Heads' Association and suggests that , even among his natural allies, Secretary of State Michael Gove's policies are causing some consternation.
Remember that last year, Mr Gove attended a parliamentary event
organised by the Friends of Grammar Schools Association at which he was asked whether he would consider the expansion of selection education, to which he replied 'My foot is hovering over the pedal'. He still appears to cling to the notion that selective schools provide an 'engine for social mobility' which is odd since on average they take around 2% of children eligible for FSM, access is determined largely by ability to pay for expensive private tuition and in the era when the grammar/secondary modern divide prevailed, around 10% of the population went on to higher education and most of them were from professional or managerial backgrounds. Even Mr Gove's cabinet colleague David Willetts has seen the light on this issue.
However, even with his foot hovering over the pedal, all is not well in the grammar school camp. It would appear that after early enthusiasm for the idea of the English Baccalaureate
, a league table metric to show how many pupils achieve five C plus GCSEs in English, Maths, a science, modern or ancient foreign language, History or Geography, members have had time to reflect on how that might affect their schools and are not happy.
The newsletter reports that very few grammars have provision that is 'fully compliant', they loathe the exclusion of RE, believe the definition of the 'balanced core' will narrow the curriculum for many students and disadvantage others in terms of post 16 and post 18 choices.
There would be perverse consequences for grammar schools ( Gove is become a master at creating these). In particular, second foreign languages may disappear, grammar schools may have to remove triple science from the curriculum, 'aesthetic' subjects such as Music and Art are likely to see a significant drop in numbers, some subjects may cease to be viable altogether, leading to staff redundancies ( remember many grammar schools are very small). That problem will be compounded at sixth form level given the draconian cuts to sixth form funding that are about to be announced. Even though it all sounds rather familiar, this tale of woe made me wonder if the larger genuine comprehensive school might, paradoxically, be the best environment for the 'academic core' to flourish, accompanied by a range of other subjects that grammar schools will no longer be able to afford.
However Mr Gove should be worried since the heads observe that grammar school resistance could 'marginalise' the whole E Bacc initiative. Claims that it promotes academic rigour would appear 'hollow to the broader educational community' if grammar schools choose to ignore it, the newsletter states.
Stirring stuff. What can we expect to see happening next? Apparently some members of the GSHA are upset that their leadership has chosen NOT to run a public campaign against the EBacc, preferring instead to to use 'dialogue' to try and influence ministers to remove the flaws ( in other words broaden it).If no response is forthcoming then it is likely that most grammar schools will choose to ignore the EBacc, effectively joining forces with a burgeoning group of heads
in academy and mainstream schools who are now openly rebuffing the E Bacc or creating their own
alternative suite of qualifications.
The schools that are changing their KS 4 curriculum already may be acting in haste. There may be yet another Gove U turn on the way.