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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M's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 10:27

@janet downs ' And these parents are angry because their children appear to be being discriminated against.'

please explain how they are discriminated against

An idea's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 10:29

M's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 10:34

@ francis gilbert
'The statistic on Free Schools Meals is published by the Department for Education, which is based on data submitted by the school itself; are you saying the government and the school itself are both flaky and unreliable? '

No, he is saying using that statistic to analyse the REASONS for that demographic not attending the school is flaky.

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:23

I think it's absulutely bloody ridiceulous! Shoot them posh buys for al I care! The scool is a local scool and it should have local people like all the othir local scools. It seems to be one rule for one lot and anothar rule for the other lot. My kids tried for the exam but didnt get in so had to go to maiden earlyu. I dont now how it is fair that kids living 300meters away from the scool dont get in but some bloody posh buys from winchister get in. Inequility at its hight if you ask me

G22's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:26

I'm not posh, I went to Reading School, would you shoot me?

Joseph Greenwood's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:52

"Shoot them posh buys for al I care"

I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous...

An idea's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:53

Are you joking? I hope so...

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

Sorry for the insultory remark, but from reading your comment I can tell why your children didn't get it. "I think it’s absulutely bloody ridiceulous! Shoot them posh buys for al I care!" You can't spell, and your opinion is quite clearly invalid shown by your latter statement. It isn't inequality: the education they receive is determined by their ability to learn, and not where they happen to live. This is in fact MORE equal than a system where local people get into local schools, as many local schools are over-subscribed, and randomly accept students. Education is about learning: if you are better at learning, you should be placed amongst those who can learn, not filtered down to the lowest common denominator in a school like "maiden earlyu".

Matthew Beddow's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:45

It is people like you, that think it is acceptable to use violence when you don't get your way, that make me glad that I chose a University far far away from Reading.
Also I think you should actually check the geographical origin of the pupils before making statements like "posh boys[sic] from winchister"...

A Reading Boy's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:03

You are freaking retarded. CATCHMENT AREA MEANS NOTHING, AND IT SHOULDN'T. Boys get into our school PURELY on intelligence. Some are posh, yes, but typically posh people are intelligent. Many people who go to our school are on EMA.

Harsha's picture
Sun, 29/05/2011 - 18:58

Well I think I know why your child didn't get in. If thats how you spell, what chance does your child stand even if he is a lot better than you?????

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:51

i bet your from reading though like all the buys should bee

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:57

no im not. Your probably just some stuck up scool kid who thinks they can make a big deal about this but who it doesnt really affeact. Try having two kids who youv gotta pay public transport costs for cause they go to school 2 miles away when theres one on the doorstep! its not fair on my family- we moved to the area thinking wed be in the catchetment but they both gott rejected. Menawhile all these buys who can afford theyre private scools get in cause they have it easy.

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:41

education is atually aboutmaking sure our younger generatains know what their doing. Dont use all your fancy termology on me to ry and look better cause it just backfires and shows that your as arragant as the rest. I may not have recived a great education and might not be the best as spelling but that doesnt mean my kids are stupid. Both my buys are really bright and should have gotten into reading scool except there were too many privately educated buys their on the day. I understand it might seem unfair that if we made reading for everyone then the more intelijent may suffer but its not fair as it is. Moving into the area i fought every school had a catchetment so i thought my buys would natrully get in but they havent and this is because of social elitieism

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:49

dont talk down to me son, show some respect to the residents who put up with your lot. I know these buys are from far away cause the comments have said so. And insinuatin that im the type to use violence is ridiceulous, show a bit of bloody respect.

An idea's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:08

Perhaps you mean intelligent people can seem posh. It would be wrong to say posh people are typically intelligent, just well educated at private school.

Joseph Greenwood's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:01

Houmous man's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:13

you tried to move into the catchment of a school with no catchment area? ummm...even though you can't spell the word 'school' (notice the 'h') thats a little silly

G22's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:15

Okay I posed that to highlight to stupidity of what you said, not actually expecting you to come back with that. The idea of shooting people, 'posh' or not (not that I even agree with the term) doesn't warrant any more answer.

The school selects on academic ability.

I understand that you are annoyed at your children not being accepted, but there was no more discrimination or selection against them other than how they did on the entrance exam.

Laura's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:24

Well then, might it not have been a good idea to actually check you were moving into the catchment?

Matthew Beddow's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:36

So you can afford to move right next door to the school, probably one of the more expensive parts of reading just for your children to get into a school that doesn't take pupils based on location (so long as you are within the Wokingham and Reading area) and you dare to call us rich kids? I think someone should have a long hard look in the mirror.

Matthew Beddow's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:50

Again, maybe you should have actually researched your choices before making such a large commitment. It also amazes me at your inability to spell basic words like boy when the correct spelling is given to you.
I agree it is sometimes unfair that alot of privatly educated primary school children get in, but this is because their school teaches the entrance exam and alot take the test. Of say 30 people from Crossfields that take the test 10-15 get in. From my state funded primary school, 4 took the test and 3 got in, so maybe the private schools dont get (proportionatly) more people in.
I surgest that the problem and your argument lies with the primary school system rather than the secondary schools

Matthew Beddow's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:52

Well how about you show some respect to us and not use such threatening terms and blue language on a public website.
I also wish to tell you that you would have significantly more problems with the pupils if it was a comp and not a grammar school that you lived next to.

another reading school boy's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:46

Reading resident,
in what way has any reading school boy done to harm you? as you claim that you have to 'put up with [our] lot' yet have no evidence to back this up..

RK's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:39

that's frankly ignorant, some parents pay for there kids public transport for a much further distance than 2 miles. To be honest I think they should walk as it might help solve britain's childhood obesity issue.

James's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 18:06

Maybe your sons did not get in because others have tutoring, I honestly cannot comment on the legitimacy of that as I have no figures or knowledge of that particular year. However, if your children should've got in then they should easily do well in Maiden Erleigh (as proven by my friend who got 8A*s and 3As at GCSEs there)

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:04

this just reflects you ignarance and arragance if you ask me... joking about peoples lives. You posh lot just let it all go to your heads as francis said and i recken this cuntry would be better without you

Joseph Greenwood's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:07

Well, if you leave it about 5 years, the Taliban will shoot me for you.
Then there'll be one less 'posh arrogant' kid who decided to serve his country.

G22's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:24

The schools are most definitely academies.

I haven't read the vast majority of the comments here, but I take great offence at your claim that because it was a grammar school, it therefore selects the most well-off in terms of wealth. I used to go to Reading School, but was not, nor am I still, financially well off.

The entire point is that it is not a private school. The entrance exam is to select the best students based on academic ability only.

I was one of two boys from my primary school that went to Reading School, I was in the bottom third in terms of wealth out of my year. Students are self-selecting when it comes down to choosing what school they wish to go to - most of my friends didn't want to go to Reading School because it was all-boys, they didn't play football, you need to pass a test and you had to wear a suit - therefore it must be posh and full of 'nerds'.

What your figures actually show is that the majority of boys who want to go to the school, who take the entrance exam and who pass, on average, happen to be from wealthier backgrounds. The fact is, you are mixing the school's academic selection and implying that it means wealth selection. It doesn't. Those that first attempt the test, and then have the academic ability to pass, achieve.

Now, if boys that have don't have well off parents in general do better in exams, then I fully agree that that is a problem that ought to be addressed nationally, as this means that a wealth gap may be resulting in an education gap at a stage where nobody is required to pay for a state education.

However, if boys that don't have well off parents in general choose not to apply to grammar schools, then that depends on their perception of what the school is.
If they simply would prefer to go to another school because it is closer, because they don't want to wear a suit, or that they don't want to go to a single-sex school, then that’s fine, that is their choice.
But, if they have the misconception that it is only for the elite, only for boys of some higher class, only for those with parents that wear suits every day and have high paid jobs - misconceptions that articles like these enforce - then something ought to be done to make people realise that the school is not about enforcing class or wealth selection.

The school strives to take those best able academically and push them to achieve their full potential, where they otherwise may not have been able to in other schools. Just as Wellbeck may focus upon leadership qualities to create Armed Services officers, or John Madejski Academy uses sport as its specialism in order to bring students and teachers together in order to encourage a different style of learning. A grammar school simply focuses on the best academically, and has its niche in pushing the brightest at academia. It is only ‘unfair’, then, if all types of specialisms in all types of school are unfair.

It does not ask you to pay fees, nor does it require you to live in an affluent area, to have parents with certain jobs, or to speak with a certain accent.

Reading School attempts to do its best to help in the local community, it is a moving force behind the plan for a new school offering a mix of academic and technical training in East Reading. Students do community service, the school’s facilities are used for local sports and clubs. In doing these things it teaches students to have respect, to be polite, courteous and willing.

But what your article does is simply enforce the misconceptions. Do you think I was spat on for buying uniform from the second hand shop, or having never owned a suit before? Do you think I was bullied for having never been abroad? Do you think that I was laughed at when I couldn’t go on a skiing trip because it was too expensive? No. Because that is not what Reading School does, that is not what it stands for.

If you judge the character and values of the school based on the average wealth of the families of the boys that go there, you are simply being as prejudiced as your imaginary committee of rich grammar school teachers choosing the best boys for the next year by going through their families bank accounts.

If you believe that this wealth gap needs to be addressed, then I agree with you whole-heartedly, but don’t blame the school for it. Why not start by trying to find some figures about who takes the entrance exam and go from there? If it shows that this wealth disparity still exists then it clearly isn’t to do with the school, and is to do with the social misconceptions about the school. If there is no such disparity, then it implies that those with wealthier families are doing better academically at a very early age, and that would certainly be a cause for alarm.
However, the figures that you have presented and the conclusions that you have based upon them are not fair, and are frankly insulting.

G22's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:33

Apologies - in my first sentence of my previous comment I cant speak for Kendrick, I meant to say that Reading School was definitely an academy.

Antoine Dodson's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:36

so you can run and tell THAT.

Mammoth's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:47

I have yet to see a good argument from the people above promoting the conversion to comprehensive schools. I do not understand what you think would happen if the change went through. If the schools remained exceptional even after the change, so that parents wanted their children to go there as much as they now do, families would move closer to the schools as this would be the only way to gain entry. The housing is already expensive around the areas within what would be their catchment areas - maybe it would become even more so. Would this be more fair? It would not aid social mobility as far as I can see. In fact selection would become almost entirely income based.

If you instead intend for the quality of the schools to drop so that they are not of special interest any more to prospective students and parents - well I cannot think of a reason you could wish this except for jealousy perhaps.

If you are worried about how many families move from other parts of the country to Reading to attempt to get their children into these schools, therefore making competition for all schools in the area too great - this is an unreasonable argument because the total number of students in the country and schools needed for them has not changed due to this. Maybe we need more schools - but if students stopped moving here, more schools would be needed elsewhere instead. Changing the nature of the school without making new schools is not going to help anyone in this respect.

Overall - what exactly would the change achieve. Essentially all that would happen would be a diminishing of the quality of two schools in the local area, and as far as I can see, a small decrease in social mobility for pupils in general.

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:50

the change would be that my lot could make it into the bloody scool! We have to put up with all the rich kids going their from far away and its not fair.

Mammoth's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:52

Are you saying that you live in the catchment area for the school?

G22's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:17

They are neither getting in because they are rich nor because they live further away.

Jamie's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:56

Your children had as much chance of getting into the school as my brother and I did; they took the same entrance exam (as my brother, anyway, I joined in yr. 12) He didn't get in because we're exceptionally well-off (we're not), he got in because he printed off a load of practice papers (availably freely from the internet) and worked hard at it. You're evidently upset that your children didn't make it into the school, but entrance into the school has nothing to do with proximity or wealth. You might have been better advised to move close to the school AFTER your children were accepted, if proximity to school was your main requirement in buying a house. And if your children had got in, despite failing the entrance exam, they would probably have achieved lower grades than at a comprehensive as the fast pace of learning would have outstripped their ability to keep up. I speak from experience here as I had to adapt myself, from a lower-achieving school which mollycoddled pupils through the syllabus, to Reading, where a subject will be covered quickly in class and students are expected to consolidate their understanding outside the classroom.

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:55

we live two minutes walk away from the scool

Mammoth's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:00

Then I agree there is a problem - but why should it be solved by essentially tearing down an institution which does a lot of good for other people in the population? There is a clearly a need for more schools in the area. Grammar schools shouldn't be made not to exist by the perceived unfairness in their effect on local people. They should just be better compensated for in the places they are located by having enough schools for every child in those places.

Joseph Greenwood's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 11:52

There appears to be a misunderstanding about how the Reading school examination works - (I cannot comment on Kendrick). The entrance examination is a series of psychometric tests (Maths, English, verbal and non-verbal reasoning) that gauge the _Ability_ (or propensity) to learn rather than intelligence. They are very similar to those used to assess all entrants to the Royal Navy. (Having done both, I can testify to this)

The ability to learn can be completely independent of intelligence. Taking the Naval example, you do not need to know how to fly a million pound aircraft to get in - you merely need to have the ability to learn, and the Navy will teach you. (If the Navy actually has any aircraft that is...)

The teachers at Reading school thus provide the catalyst for this process to happen. . The primary tool for achievement is the environment that the student is in - at Reading school it is entirely normal for an entire peer group to have an in-depth discussion of Fluid mechanics or the implications of 'Faustus'. In a comprehensive environment, do you think this would happen? In my experience, the discussions instead extend to how inebriated one gets and what wild antics happened... Not quite Faustus...

In order to establish a statistical analysis of this, one would be much better off examining the percentage of students who gain EMA rather than those who gain Free School Meals. Given that in my experience the only people who are given school meals are the Boarders, and that they represent a smaller number than the Day-boys, the results may be skewed.

As an addendum, I take umbrage both at the accusation that Reading school boys are "Too young" to participate in this argument and that we are rich hoodlums destroying the neighbourhood. I would have saved myself a large number of Tuesday afternoons had I not helped the Gifted and Talented with their chemistry...

Houmous man's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:01

a new school is being built in Reading, and anyway, Bulmershe isn't actually that bad...I would definitely prefer to go there to Maiden Erlegh

readingboy's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:09

Dear Reading Resident

You seem to be misinformed, as others have pointed out you do not need to be posh to get into Reading School, just intelligent. For 90% of pupils money has nothing to do with it. Admittedly the school admits a small number of borders (15 per year) who do pay money to go there. The remaining 105 scored well on the 11+ purely on merit and thus got in. It is not the schools fault your children are less intelligent than myself and the other pupils. I worked hard at school so i could go to a good school, taking away my right to achieve a better education by working hard is unfair on pupils who are successful. Don't be bitter than your offspring are not as clever as pupils of reading school, maybe you should have helped them learn at home or accept that they arn't that clever. The test was pretty easy so if you didnt get in you would be able keep up with the work anyway so no point thinking your kids would have turned out geniuses at the end of their reading schooling. the end.

Warby's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:28

Can the people who can spell come back please?

James clifton's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:30

I attended Reading school, Iive locally and not from a privileged background. If it stops being a grammer school, it it won't be as successful as it is. Residents should be proud to live in the same area as such a great school :)

Matthew Beddow's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:32

It seems to me that most of the arguments for making RS a comp are based around the ethos that 'my kids are thick as I am poor due to not working hard at school and therefore did not push my kids to do well at primary school, so I'm going to have a moan and try and disrupt the education of those that are smarter and do well at school'.

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:44

no need to be insulting. My kids are both very clever and passed their sats last year. It is a matter of misunderstandings which is the problem- reding should HAVE a cathetment because that is what so many other school have- why should there be exeption?

G22's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:51

Perhaps other schools have more catheters to put in their cathetment?

There is a fairly wide catchment area, as the website states:
"All day places will be offered to applicants who perform well enough in the tests and who reside within the designated area."

But where you live comes second to how well you do in the exam. Your children did not pass the exam, therefore they did not get in. I'm not trying to say that spitefully, but that's the case.

A Reading Boy's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:01

I'm sorry, but SATS mean shit all. Didn't they get abolished?

Fraser Savverton's picture
Sun, 29/05/2011 - 19:03

SATS don't mean jack shit! But i failed them :( but still SATS DONT MEAN JACK SHIT!

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:52

yeah but they didnt get in cause there were so many privately educated lot at that exam

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:05

they still dod them at maden early scool and my buys both got flying culurs in them


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