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.
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:41

Fiona sounds like a women who nows what shes talking about

Dan W's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:42

DO NOT USE THE TERM APARTHEID. The use of such a reference is absurd!

dan's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:46

Do your research before posting an argument
anyone can edit wikipedia... go figure

Warby's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:47

Jesus, it's fewer, not less.

Laura's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:47

Can I just point out, there's a huge grey area between being 'rich' and being 'eligible for free school dinners'. I don't get free school dinners, but equally we certainly aren't rich.

Also, there's not problem with schools choosing students based on their sports or acting ability. Equally there is no problem with schools being created for students who are less academically able for whatever reason. All those schools take the skills that the students have and stretch them to the best of their ability and teach them in a specific way that best suits them. Grammar schools do exactly the same. They take children who show great academic potential and teach them in a way that they will reach their full potential.

Also, of course not all schools are going to have excellent results, simply because not all children are academic. They might be excellent at art, but rubbish at maths and science. All children are different, so educating them all in the same way would fail to acknowledge this.

Warby's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:48

*Fewer. Jeez.

Year 13 student, Reading School.'s picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:49

Theres an air of fierce hypocrisy concerning the matter. Fiona, you went to a Grammar school, did you not? As did your partner. Both of you in fact made good of yourselves. Francis had the opportunity to send his son to a private school. I wonder how many students at this school were on FSM...!

The grammar school system works for those who are good enough to take advantage of it. Francis went to Cambridge university. Agreed, university education is not a legal requirement, but they function in the same was as a grammar school. Is it just that people in cambridge can live right next to the university and not be offered a place? The question is on a par with this.

"Every child has a right to go to an excellent local state school, enabling every child to achieve their full potential." As a grammar school pupil myself I know for sure that:
a) any child who was not particularly bright would crumble and lose all confidence at our school.
b) at a local comp, I would be awful. I am the most competitive person I know, and without people above me, there would be no competition. so why try?

William Shakespeare went to a Grammar school. The grammar school probably cultivated his talents and left him as the best author ever (sorry Francis). I know many talented people who go to comps. They say that the teachers are forced, out of principle, to focus on the less academic children, and therefore the talented children are not stretched as much.

If the issue is to do with money, the hypocrisy again comes in, with almost every successful politician, doctor, dentist etc coming from well off backgrounds. If it is to do with local space, as i said before, the 'rich' people will buy the property around the good schools, and this will lead to a huge social divide.

Ultimately, theres nothing which will make everyone happy, there never is. If youre looking to attack a grammar school why dont you arrange to have a look around and examine the dynamic of the school yourselves...

Laura's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:51

I would like to know why the incredibly long comment I just wrote wasn't posted.

Unfair's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:11

Ignore this.....

RStudent's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:53

I dont think this he understands the idea of being intelligent does not equal being rich...How does the number of people on school meals got to do with anything? On his idea about location, so if i lived next to HSBC does it mean it not fair if i dont get a job there?

Lozzie's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:59

Interesting, neither of my previous two comments have been posted, despite being legitimate points. I shall retype.

Firstly, there's a huge grey area financially between being entitled to free school meals and being 'rich'. Personally I'm not eligible for them, yet my family certainly isn't well off.

Secondly, people seem to have no issues with schools that choose pupils based on sports ability, acting ability, or even those who are less academically able. These schools take those children and educate them in a way to get the most out of the talents they have and will allow them best to develop. Grammar schools do exactly the same, by taking those that are academically talented and educating them in a way that will allow them to thrive, but would not suit many other children.

Finally, you speak as though you want all children to be educated in the same way, but the problem here is that not every child is the same. If they were all educated in the same way then their individual talents would not be able to flourish.

Lozzie's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:08

Please ignore this comment.

George Brabyn's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:02

Will people start reading, please?
It strikes me that people keep on making the same arguments over and over again, with little care for the fact that they are wrong and have been proven wrong. The two schools in question are in no way unfair or in favour of the rich and posh. Those who think this is the case are just following a stereotype and appear to have no notion of what a grammar school boy is.
Before anyone asks me for evidence for these points, please read this page. Properly. It's all there, I think you'll find!
Also, note that in terms of the amount of 'likes' each comment has received, those supporting the two schools has a far higher total than those against. Abolishing the grammar schools has almost no support, it appears.
Now, can anyone give me a good, concise argument in favour of abolishing the current grammar school status, which isn't one that has already been proven wrong?

Devon Sanders's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:03

Fiona, do you think your opinion is suddenly extremely valid and overrules all because you are the partner of Alalstair Campbell? I have a lot of respect for Mr. Campell as he has done a lot for the country and I agree with his politics but you are, sadly, ruining his reputation.

Lozzie's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:03

Firstly, there is a huge grey area between being eligible for free school lunches and being 'rich'. My family isn't eligible for them, but we are by no means rich.

Secondly, people seem to have no issues with schools that choose pupils based on sports ability, acting ability, or even those who are less academically able. These schools take those children and educate them in a way to get the most out of the talents they have and will allow them best to develop. Grammar schools do exactly the same, by taking those that are academically talented and educating them in a way that will allow them to thrive, but would not suit many other children.

Unfair's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:10

And this one. I thought they hadn't gone through as the page ordering is really weird.

Laura's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:12

Meant to post that as me...

Lozzie's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:03

I would love to know why my comments aren't being posted.

Unfair's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:04

Yeah, grammar schools are totally unfair like.

Tom's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:06

I love Reading school. It's really just a cheaper way of sending my kids to private school whilst getting on the whole better results. All it needed was a £20 - £30 thousand for tuition before hand, a private jet to fly them in from Paris, and a chauffeur to drive them into school everyday. I say keep open the grammar schools for my kids to do the same for theirs. This way none of my prestigious family will ever have to mix with the lower classes again, I am all together not fond of them or their accents.

Live by the area's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:07

I am a pupil of Reading school and live quite near the school. I can tell you that the area near Reading school is not at all fancy are posh. Some of the places near Reading school can be quite rowdy. And also, only a small proportion of the people who live by Reading school take the exam because there are othere secondary school, like Maiden Erlegh or Holt, they could go to. So, if the people living by Reading School prefer to go to other secondary schools, why should Reading school stop being selective?

Live by the area's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:12

Palces around Reading school can be rowdy and are not posh or fancy. Also, only a few people take the exam. This is because there are other secondary schools, like Maiden erlegh, that the students want to got to. So, you really can't blame the school if only few of the local kids get in.

G's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:14

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.

Charley's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:15

With regards to the 'chronic unfairness' of grammar schools, it would be interesting to see somebody reason the basis for such a comment. Every student has the opportunity to take the entrance exam, and those who do not receive a place and are disappointed can apply again in year 9 and in the Sixth Form. This is opposed to a system in which all students are educated together for better or for worse, and which has been proved to be for worse. The average level of basic education - as in numeracy and literacy - has fallen since the introduction of Comprehensive schooling, resulting in a less succesful education for the majority with no improvement on the level of past Secondary Moderns. No matter how you philosophically approach the issue, the Comprehensive system has not been a success and any attempt to remove the surviving grammar schools in nothing more than spite.

In the words of Christopher Marlowe: 'I cannot read, so I wish all books to be burnt'

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

Having also attended a comprehensive school, I would also say I felt no obligation to work. I acknowledge now that I was massively disruptive to the class, did as little work as possible and coasted through tests set. Had I continued at that school, I would have drifted through qualifications until I suddenly had to work for something, which I would have failed miserably at. What reading does is push more able pupils so that they are always challenged and can't just coast, enabling them to be the best they can throughout life, get the best job they can, and help our society as a whole.

Ro P's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:27

I'm sorry.. did she say free school meals? i've been going there for a year and guys haven't told me about this?!?!

Ro P's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:42

The amount of time you guys have taken to form all these arguments.. you could be helping your child study.. he might get in then..

Sensible person's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:42

Reading is one of the top schools in the country - FACT
If it becomes a comprehensive school it will just become yet another shit school in Reading and thus you wont want to send your children there anyway.
So from what I can see the only reason you would want this ballot to go through is because your kids are to dumb to pass the entrance exam.
I am not a student there by the way so this is a purely objective decision.

VIJAY's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:44

Veej want free school meals!

You don't know what you are chatting's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 15:32

Don't dilute the argument. This is serious!

Matthew Beddow's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:44

Why does everyone care about free school meals?
Free school meals is the worst measure of socio-economic background. The reason nobody at RS gets FSM is more to do with the fact that there are not the catering facilities to offer school meals.
You will also find that while the country average of pupils on FSM is 20%, in the Reading and Wokingham area, the percentage is much lower anyway

Harsha's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:48

Grammar schools are one of the best thing that happened to this country! It enables children from under-privileged backgrounds to really give themselves a good chance to shine in exams and get into a good university. I know that these parents are putting forward a Free School Meal argument but that is only the extreme. This bias and twisting facts for a certain benefit I only expect from the Daily Mail!!! As someone previously said, Reading is a relatively affluent area and the FSM count will be less than the country so its a terribly weak argument!

Don't disband grammar schools because they are too good. Surely we should be looking at improving comprehensive schools. If this ridiculous poll goes through, we will be lowering standards of education in the area forcing those with clever children into actual 'public schools' and thereby severely stretching the average income family. We should try and improve comprehensives not abolish grammar schools to allow a level playing field.

And by the way, the websites don't prove anything! Anyone with a basic knowledge of a computer can make a website to that standard so don't say the website is the reason why we are a 'public school'. If you want, you can see our facilities and then you will realise that they are actually worse than most comprehensives in the area.

WERE NOT RICH's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:55

Can everyone who would class themselves as rich and a member of reading school please reply with "me" to this comment just so we can prove to all these retards that we are not a bunch of rich foreigners.

Ollusu Muntagi's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 12:23

Did you know my son Richard is very clever?

Anonymous's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:58

Kendrick and Reading School are some of the best schools in the country. What they stand for is the love of learning and a willingness to expand their academic horizons - and to find students who share that passion, they need to be selective. A lot of people who are voting are parents whose children have failed to enter Kendrick and Reading School, and that's not the right reason for them to vote as it is extremely self-serving.

May I point out that Bulmershe right now is heinously under-subscribed? Bulmershe is a large school, capable of housing many more students per year, and their catchment covers almost the whole of the Reading Area. There is no reason for students to travel far to attend school every day. Other schools like Little Heath are also available.

I am glad Kendrick and Reading School are selective. If they weren't, then quite simply, their academic standard would go down by far. Is it worth ruining two perfect good schools that are functioning very well and producing a lot of successful, well-rounded people, for a few disgruntled parents of those who did not get pass the entrance exam? Those people should understand that if they want their children to receive a good education, and have a brighter future, they have to work hard.

After all, I worked very hard to get into Kendrick.

Commenter's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:04

Janet Downs: 'The school shouldn't get any worse due to the quality of teaching'

I am a pupil at Reading School and I would like to tell you that the teachers are of the same quality as any comprehensive school. We are good because we work hard!!!! We have parents who want us to do well and push us. All we need is a push in the right direction.

Ollusu Muntagi's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 12:24

But have I told you my son Richard is very clever???

I am not Rich's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:07

Ok. I am rich enough to live in a home and pay for food but we don't have money magically growing on trees! We are stretched as well so don't use the argument that only rich fancy pants get into the school

Liam's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:09

You know you could all go teach your children instead of debate this with a bunch of pupils from the school, and then your children might actually become clever enough to go to the school.

P.S bet you would not want the school to become a comprehensive if your children actually went there

Apartheid. My arse's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:10

Stop twisting the facts. Those in Reading have less FSM generally. Plus it is a genuine extreme. I am actually a black South African and I am disgusted that you use the apartheid to describe such a silly argument. My dad experienced great pain during this period so I ask you to retract these statements as your argument is a completely stupid one.

Boarding's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:12

I've tried to put myself in the shoes of those who would see Reading School and Kendrick School made comprehensive, but whilst I see some purely selfish reasons I don't see any worthy of merit. It would be nice if these same people did the same for us...
Local parents have clearly not recognized the true nature of boarding at Reading School. The boarding houses are made up of boys whose parents live abroad, boys who don't have a particularly nearby local school & boys that have that much desire to succeed that they will live away from family and old friends in order to source an education that interests and stimulates them.
The conversion of the school into a comprehensive would totally destroy all of these motives to study at Reading as a boarder for prospective students of the school and so, the intake into boarding would inevitably become either non-existent or completely unsustainable at such low numbers. Boarding would not financially be able to continue.

"Why does this matter?" I hear the local parents ask. It matters because the existing boys can not simply be thrown out onto the street to make room for those with less aptitude and ability to succeed. Boys can not be sent back across Europe. Boys can not survive as healthy human beings if they have to rise at 5am to travel to school or get home at 6pm with homework to do and the school does not allow it. However, these boys will become financially unsustainable, logistical nightmares if the school becomes comprehensive. We're talking about 11-17 year old boys who are expecting to come in to boarding this September being forced out as soon as they arrive.

Even in the long term, the boarding houses would be entirely redundant. The rooms are nowhere near big enough for classes and conversion/building/demolition is forbidden due to the listed nature of the buildings. So no, you won't be able to turn them into canteens/food tech. labs and the school would still be screwed in that respect.

Maybe there is a viable financial solution and if so I'd love to hear it. However, let's face it, you don't really know Reading School.

Why does everyone hate the middle class?'s picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:17

Again the middle class suffers. How much more after tuition fees?

Do you bloody realise it won't affect the rich cos they will just send their children to private schools. Most people in our school are middle class but not rich enough to send children to private schools. So grammar schools are the only option for the middle class!

Awful argument!

Olussu Muntagi's son, Richard's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:27

Fiona Millar, you're such a MILF. These reading scool buys always showing off in their fancy trainer and it make me wonder about the state of the local scools state. These upper-posh class buys are always walking on the pavemants when my buys must walk to scool and reduce the efissency of my childrens commute to the scool you know? sheht man.

The Don's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:32

I am a student at Reading school and am also very poor - infact I live in a 2 bedroom house (5people in my family). I kno COUNTLESS people who are not as well off as you are making us out to be. Many of my pupils and myself show to be able to get into a grammar school you dont need to be rich - you need to be clever. The only "tutoring" I got was my dad giving me a verbal reasoning book and a non verbal reasoning book. I just read those and practised. That is all that is needed. While, yes some people get tutoring, I beat 100s of people who didnt, as did several of my friends proving you dont need to be rich to get in. This is a completely invalid argument.

Warby's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:32

Can I just say at this point that I really like a cracking massed debate like this one.

An idea's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:36

In response to Warby, I agree. It is just a shame some people, on both "sides" have been making inappropriate comments.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:34

It's been well established that the 11+ is not a test of a child's intelligence but of a child's background. The children who fail the test can be left with feelings of inadequacy for the rest of their lives. It's cruel to inflict it upon our children.

Warby's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:41

Please provide your well established evidence that proves this. Ta.

You don't know what you are chatting's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 19:19

Yh it is also cruel to sentence clever but poor into a classroom with those inferior to him and ruining his life chances. Sounds bad now i put it like that, doesnt it?

Joseph's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 19:55

The reading school examination tests a pupils innate ability. It is not a question of a child's intelligence or their background.

From this I take it you support the abolition of selection in the Armed forces? Why should less able people not be allowed to fly our aircraft? Why, if they live nearer the training ground, should less able people not be allowed to command our tanks?


Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.