Local parents protest against the unfairness of grammar schools in Berkshire and might force them to become non-selective

Francis Gilbert's picture
Berkshire parents are taking a stand against the chronic unfairness of the grammar school system. Local parents are forcing a ballot in the Reading area of Berkshire -- using legislation set up under the Labour government -- to see whether the local community actually wants grammar schools in their area. Since very few local children go to the schools, it appears that these schools will lose the ballot and be forced to lose their grammar school status. Last night it was confirmed that a group of parents in Berkshire had begun the process of forcing a vote on the future of the Reading School and the town’s other grammar, Kendrick School for girls

Today's Daily Mail presents these parents' arguments in a negative light, but even the Mail's biased reporting can't hide the fact that these parents have a very good point: the two grammar schools in their area, Reading School and Kendrick School, are both highly selective state schools which do not admit many children from the local area. Reading School, a state-boarding school and grammar school, is clearly full of children from more privileged backgrounds, with the latest data on it showing that it admits just 0.5% of pupils on Free School Meals (FSM), compared with the national average of 20% pupils on FSM. Kendrick School admits just 0.4% of pupils on FSM. Have a look at the school's websites and you'll see that they are essentially state-funded "public schools".

One way that the schools could take more control over their destinies would be to become Academies but this could mean that they'll only be able to select 10% of pupils who have a particular aptitude in a subject they specialise in; obviously, not enough selection for these highly selective schools.

Kendrick School clearly have the best "PR", publishing this leaflet urging parents to vote "No" in the vote: it has the highest Google rating on the subject. Meanwhile, the 11+ chatrooms are buzzing with chatter about the subject, which can be found here. I'm finding it difficult to find many details from the protesting parents, but will follow this up in due course.
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Harry's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:39

Francis Gilbert, "social apartheid"- why dont you come to our school!

John W's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:41

i dont care, just give me money for the refectory.

John W's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:43

i don't care what happens, stop gassing and pay for my refectory.

Chris's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:39

Please, I know comments like this seem funny.
But as the second person to discover this thread- and one of the people who are bringing this to wider attention- can I please ask you not to do this. Lots of us feel strongly about this situation, but it undermines our serious argument if you post like this, however amusing it is

Mr Weeds appreciation society's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:44

there's no point even fighting about it, reading school is going to stay a grammar school, it's a pointless argument LOL

Tom's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:44

As a year 13 student at Reading School, I believe that it would be an incredibly poor decision to make the school non-selective. Reading school gives the brightest children in a large area a chance to excel that they simply wouldn't get at any other school, and I believe that it is unfair to deprive these children of their full potential.

In a non-selective schools, these very bright children would not be stretched or challenged, and would almost certainly be learning in noisy, disruptive classrooms. Reading School gives these children an opportunity to thrive - this is evident in the fact that around 15% of Reading School students get into Cambridge or Oxford University each year.

On a personal note, I have managed to secure a place to study Medicine at Cambridge next year. Would I have been able to secure this place without the help of expert teaching and a fantastic learning environment? Almost certainly not. I can guarantee you that almost all Reading School students would say the same as me - we all owe our futures to the school, and we intend to fight to keep it selective.

Reading school is an asset to the country, and has been for almost 900 years. Do you want to ruin all those years of excellence? I urge you, if you are one of those wanting to make Reading School non-selective... Please think of the 120 boys each year who could have been Doctors, found the cure to cancer or won a Nobel Prize, just sitting at the back of a classroom twiddling their thumbs. It is sad enough that this happens to many children in non-selective schools already... Don't make it happen to 120 more each year.

F.Drew's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:45

No ones mind is going to change through this debate anymore as it is just a stream of abuse and virtually shouting at each other. Everyone may have their opinions and may voice them but this thread has gone too far, (how did 'shooting' people come into this?). It might be a better idea to research your queries before you post them on here or even have a look round the school so you can see both sides of the argument and base your opinion on that. Show respect to both sides and check through your post before you submit.

Francis Gilbert is a twat's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:46

Why would stupid people and people who are not smart enough and wouldn't respect the school be allowed to join. We get taken the piss out of our school uniform by other school's who don't achieve as good grades as us. Are you saying anyone is allowed to come to Reading School and deserves it. Also free school meals mean nothing, alot of people do have packed lunches and don't apply for free school meals because they're disgusting.

An idea's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:26

Though it might seem funny, that username is just embarrassing for all the pupils of Reading and Kendrick. It makes Grammar school kids seem arrogant, and is not helping us make our point.

2d's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:46

Isn't Fiona Millar's point of view slighly hypocritical as she went to a grammar school and then a university which allows only the best candidates in (rather like a grammar school) surely most of her arguements could be applied to other institutions which select on basis of merit only

meritocracy not mediocrity

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:15

WE have chosen to send all our children to their local comprehensive schools, partly as a result of what we saw as a very divisive system when we were at school. I am pleased to say that they have all been happy and achieved well, as have most of their friends. They and their peers are nothing like the stereoptypical images of comprehensive pupils portrayed by some supporters of selection on this site. Moreover I think they and their schools would be horrified by some of the sentiments expressed here by young people who, by their own accounts, have had a very privileged education.

Murph's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:23

Comprehensive students are fine. we're saying nothing about them. We're just saying the selective schools allow the brightest kids (whatever their background, race or wealth) to learn with each other and from each other. I personally go to reading school and have a sister who goes to the local comprehensive. Are you saying I'm stereotypical about my own sister?

Jamie's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:28

I can't recall myself or any of my peers painting stereotypical images of comprehensive school attendants as you imply, despite us all being painted as "arragant posh buys". Incidentally, comments supporting us being subject to a mass homicide are still very much available...

G's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:13

if your children wanted to go to a grammar school would you not let them?

You don't know what you are chatting's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 14:14

You might have chosen to send your children to Comprehensive schools but others are fine with the grammar school system. It is a way in which lots of clever and bright children can learn together at a fast pace so that they can achieve their potential. These silly debates is exactly why this country is considered a declining one. This system will be taxing clever people by making them learn at a slower speed and not achieve their potential and the country as a whole would suffer. Knowing that Alistair Campbell was part of the government for so long and due to the fact that he was very successful during his time, your view is very short sighted. Talk to him about how disincentivising the public to do well is bad news!

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:34

You can't have real comprehensive ( all ability) schools if there are selective schools nearby that cream off the top 20% of pupils.

H's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 23:43

It should be said that when you type 'Fiona Miller' into Google, a picture comes up of her with someone who looks scarily like Alistair Campbell. Think of that what you will!

Reading school boy's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:39

I have been to a comprehensive school and now I got to Reading school. I know how comprehensive schools are like and they don't do anything to people who have finished the work. THey keep you at the same pace as everyone else. They don't even give me extra work. While, in Reading school, I found out that I was a couple of months behind everyone and worked my socks up to catch them up. If your children doesn't want to run the extra mile or work that extra hour, so be it.

Jamie's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 19:49

I think what you mean is that the range of abilities will not be accurately represented in comprehensive schools "if there are selective schools nearby that cream off the top 20% of pupils." however, I do not see this as a problem, the comprehensive schools will be better able to specialise for the other 80% of pupils, and thus those pupils will receive better grades than if everybody had been lumped in together.

Luke Barratt's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:42

I notice how quiet you are when people who've been to both comprehensive schools and Reading School talk about their experiences. The fact remains that these people, and others, have found life difficult at comprehensive schools, and Reading School is there as an alternative. Without wishing to sound over-dramatic, would you take away that refuge?

You don't know what you are chatting's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 14:16

Creaming of 20% of the pupils is a good thing, Fiona. It allows those who have a passion for learning to exercise their knowledge to their full potential. If your ridiculous and short sighted proposal goes through, you will be stuck with disruptive and bored pupils in the same class. Do you want to fracture the already dead education system in this country????

You don't know what you are chatting's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 17:14

Yes but Finland and England are different countries with a different set of circumstances. This country is above Finland in the world order because the best are allowed to shine in grammar schools. Whereas I cannot say the same for Finland; they may have the best record in pulling up failing youngesters but aren't they not holding back the talented ones?

Grammar schools are the one access point for the poor in society to gain the best jobs in the future! By doing this, you will ensure that the best jobs later will go to the private school students with genuinely rich parents!

Cameron's picture
Sat, 28/05/2011 - 16:05

That's the very reason that Reading and Kendrick accept pupils from such a wide area - so that comprehensive schools still have very bright and able students in them. Your statement is correct but is, in fact, in favour of (if you have selective schools) taking students from a wider area so that there remains "real comprehensive[s]".
I understand you are generally against grammar schools but I believe this debate has been sparked by a group of parents being (justifiably) annoyed at the change of catchment area for Maiden Erlegh and finding themselves with a desperate search for a secondary school place for their child(ren). The comprehensives in the area (Maiden Erlegh in particular) do have very successful gifted students who attend (my younger brother included, I think anyway!).
My point is the comprehensives in the area do not suffer from a lack of students in the top 20% and that is not an issue that needs to be scrutinised in the current debate.

Fiona Millar's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 14:20

Finland, the most successful school system in the world, seems to manage its comprehensive system extremely well. There is no reason why the English school system could not do likewise, although we would have to get rid of selection first.

Reading School boy's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:52

The parents are just jealous their kids didnt get in, and are so malicious that instead of living with the fact their kids just aren't good enough they are removing the chance of anyone in the future getting a high quality education. They need to get over themselves.

JFBizzle's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:54

Fiona Millar, if you are Alistair Campbell's wife, why does wikipedia say you went to a selective grammar school? Funny, that those linked to the Labour government like to pull up the ladders of social mobility after using them themselves?

Luke's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:00

Shame on you Local Schools Network. Your moderators should be working to prevent attempted bias, racism, and personal insults towards other people. My view was undecided before, but now, after realising the incredibly offensive comments said by the people wanting to change the school, referring to us as "posh", "rich" and "having bought ourself into the school" as well as furthermore stating that our school "selects people according to background and race", I have swung strongly in favour of keeping the school the same. I find it amazing that school kids have more self control and etiquette than fully grown adults.

Also, claims that our school is prejudice in its choices belong in a court, not in a biased, unfair internet forum.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:05

The standard of debate has slipped from that usually seen on this site. Politeness has been met with abuse, research and evidence has been met with disdain and arrogance. Spiteful comments have been made about people on benefits or who are "dumb".

If these comments are really from pupils of the schools then the standards of argument from many of them are not a good avertisement for what is supposed to be a "top" school. I do not think that the senior teachers or the Governing Body of the schools would be impressed with many of the comments which have been made.

Ollie's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:10

I have to agree with you in this case. We were having a serious and sensible debate yesterday but it seems some people are starting to take this as a joke.

Dan's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:11

@Janet Downs
In contrast, I know for a fact that Mr Weeds (Head/ principal) is in support of the positive attitude from the senior members of the school and feels we can make a good impact on the campaign by raising awareness of the facts and showing it from our perspective. Unfortunately this is more applicable to our comments last night and I am dissapointed by the decline in arguement brought about today by younger members of the school, who underestimate the seriousness of the implications this change could bring.

Jamie's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:33

I have to admit that reading the first few sentences of your post, I thought you were applying it to the other side of the argument, Mr. Resident and Mr. Mutangi... Yes, people acting idiotically on both sides of the argument detract from both sides' credibility, so please, let's ignore them so we can actually have a reasoned debate.

Devon Sanders's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:55

But spiteful, harsh comments have been made about us 'millionaires', us 'posh boys' that 'should be shot'. I don't think that the person that run's this website would be impressed with the level of bias that you are expressing in the current predicament.

Matthew Beddow's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:41

I think you should re-read all of the comments on this site and you will find that a great majority of the abusive and poorly researched comments are from the parents who whish to abolish the grammar school system. The pupils make the most coherent, polite and most justified comments of them all. After all, there is no better research than 10 years involvement with the school, 7 years as a pupil and 3 as an OR.
I also wish to add that the senior staff at RS are very pleased with the standard and content of the comments its pupils are posting and are more worried about the comments of parents of prospective pupils.

mike's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:15

I've read through the main arguments for and against the changing the system. As an ex-pupil of Reading School, I may appear biased in showing my support for the school. But when I took the entrance exam (for which I had no tutoring) and was accepted, I treated it as a moment of success. I was proud of myself for working harder at school, because I wanted to learn more, not because I was under any sort of pressure to. However, I still maintain that if I had not been accepted, I would not have seen it as a stigma of failure by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, I would have worked harder to prove to myself that I could still succeed.
In response to the criticism of "a local school not educating local children", I would say that there is nothing stopping local children from applying to take the entrance exam. The entrance exam is an assessment of mathematical and linguistical ability in part, but is also an assessment of logic (as alluded to earlier by another former boy). The most conducive situation for learning is around people not necessarily of the same intelligence, but of the same way of thinking. If two people think the same way, it is much easier for a teacher to explain something once to both of them than twice in different ways to each individually. In my opinion, the entrance exam is an effective way of highlighting this. As a result of this cohesion between students, it makes a teacher's job much easier, which improves the learning environment and aids in the attainment of higher grades.
I'm not very well educated on the local politics of funding and what percentage of children from different primary schools get into whichever school. However, I feel great pride in having been from this school which I don't see in other people I have met from other schools. So if the change were to come about, I would only hope that the pride I have for my school is the pride other people would share for it.

Luke Barratt's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:44

In fact, even though you don't want to hear this, most of the abusive or offensive comments have come from people on your side of the argument. '[P]osh twats' and 'send you all to Thailand' are but a few.

Murph's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:08

I'm ashamed. I like alastair campbell and his politics and yet his wife is claiming, because of my school, I am posh and priveleged.

RB's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:11

From a student at Reading this whole argument is ridiculous. Okay I maybe can see where some of you are coming from, that maybe some of your kids aren't treated to as privileged teaching as we are, and I also feel that teaching should be good wherever you are, but that is because we have tried and succeeded in getting into a school where the best is expected of us. We get the good teaching to coax this intelligence out of us, and challenge us to achieve better. If we got rid of the selective system who eventually would lead the banks and top science firms of the future etc. If everything was brought down to a par, to the same level, then no one would strive to be better, teaching levels would have to accommodate vast differences in intelligence, and people would never achieve their full potential.
Furthermore, have any of you met a Reading school student, I for one can say all my friends are polite and kind, not snobby and do not look down on people, come meet us in person and then maybe make judgements instead of stereotyping the lot of us.
Basically, it is not the selective schooling you should be challenging, everyone has an equal chance of getting in, anyone in Reading can give it a go, you should maybe be looking at local schools where teaching isn't up to standards, or the schools your children go to. Not trying to abolish a school that only tries to set standards for a group of boys who have worked hard to get where they are at in academic achievements.

Jon's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:12

Because we can argue?

Matthew Stent's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:13

So the main argument against Reading School has been that it is unfair to local residents that have not got in? I believe that even 'social apartheid' was mentioned several times! This is complete bs because Reading school accepts the students who succeed in the test, not because of there background or anything else. If reading school started letting only Reading residents in then that would be discriminating against the people from outside reading who have worked harder and have proved themselves to be more intelligent because of where they live?

G's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:18

this is ridiculous. The reason that most people apply for Grammar schools is because they are more enthusiastic about education. If they became non selective then people who have pushy parents but are unenthusiastic about working will slow down the work rate... secondly just because you go to Reading School doesn't mean you're destined to get good results. I didn't get great GCSE results because i simply didn't work hard enough... Now everyone in comprehensive schools could get better grades if they worked harder, just like at reading

Peter's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:18

Grammar schools are a fairer way of allocating school places than whether you can afford to live in a certain postcode: Intelligence not money

haha's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:23

this discussion is an absolute farce

Peter's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:30

Do you not think that grammar schools are fairer to poorer people nowadays? It seems fairly obvious that universal comprehensive education has failed.

whataloadofrubbish's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:30

Fiona, may I ask your response to the fact that, I believe, your data on less people 'eligible' to receive free meals go to grammar schools, specifically Reading School and Kendrick is bias.

The statistics show that less people receive free meals, but not that less people are eligible. The lack of cafeteria/canteen at Reading School means that people who are indeed eligible, won't apply due to the lack of cafeteria/canteen, and so your statement that less people are eligible for free meals at grammar schools is completely unfounded.

What is your response to this?

:-('s picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:31

:-( :-( :-( :-( :-(

Dan W's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:32

But you confirm that it was selective? And that through the process of selection you attained your education?

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:33

Fiona - is the sense of social justice felt by the Reading School pupils valid?

Adam's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:34

Reading have signed Leigertwood on a 3 year deal.
Is it unfair that he gets a contract instead of my 6 year old sister-I mean come on, I'm from waaaay closer to the Mad Stad than Leigertwood.
ps. Leigertwood is a legend.

Bhagya Silva's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:40

How can anyone honestly say that there is no demand for such selective schools as Reading School, when each and every year there are over 500 candidates competing for only just over 100 places in year 7?
I myself live in the Reading area, only 5 minutes drive from the school and come from a working class family, so most of the arguments being presented here, to me, are completely unjust.
Reading School and Kendrick offer superior education to children who are intellectually superior, regardless of financial status.


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