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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G22's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:57

So your actual, real argument is against private primary education.

As I said at the end of my (rather too long for people to actually read) comment:
"If there is no such [wealth] disparity [in those taking the entrance exam], then it implies that those with wealthier families are doing better academically at a very early age [ i.e. primary education], and that would certainly be a cause for alarm."

Although I don't recall meeting anyone who went to a private primary school in Reading School.

Bob Marsh's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:53

What scores did they get?

I dont wish to say who I am's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:32

I dont know about Reading School, but at Kendrick, the majority as far as i know, do not come from private schools.
I go to kendrick, i attended no private school. I was tutored by my mum, who simply bought cheap tests and practice booklets from WHSmith.
Also Reading School and Kendrick do have a catchment, just on a larger scale

I dont wish to say who I am's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:35

If they got flying colours on them, maybe they will get into a good university. Think about the future and not the past

Laura's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:39

So wait, schools that select pupils by their catchement are not elitist by wealth at all? My house is within the Maiden Erleigh catchment, and thus the value of the house is considerably higher than it would be otherwise.

Many good comprehensives are so competitive that you have to have enough money to purchase a house within catchment in order to get in. This isn't the case with selective schools, where one of the criteria isn't how expensive your house was.

Dazed&Confused's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:39

Many local parents are understandably upset by the fact that there is a local school which performs very well that they do not have automatic access to for their children. I can completely understand every parent wanting the best for their child, which includes getting the the best education.
However there is a misconception that Reading School, Kendrick School and grammar schools in general perform better due to either better teaching or better funding or both. Grammar schools are capable of achieving better results generally in examinations because the style of teaching is different (not necessarily the quality) and is only appropriate for some students. If all the students in a class can grasp an idea quickly then it enables the teacher to move on and cover the syllabus and beyond, but if there are many students who struggle (quite justifiably with a concept) its slows down the class as a whole.
I hope this point minimises the hard feelings among parents whose child or children do not get into a grammar school.
Finally I would like to say that arguments stating that grammar school educated children are 'posh' are unfounded as it is a state school open to all backgrounds. Claims that grammar school students are 'arrogant' may be true but are completely irrelevant to this argument.
Thank you for reading.

Greg T's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:48

I think it is a terrible shame that we have some people campaigning to turn our school into a comprehensive, but then at the same time when the reasons are as unbelievably poor as I have read and just generally going to end up going nowhere I do not think we really have to worry too much.

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

anothar example of the reading scool buy arragance

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

This is getting ridiculous now - all of the 4 words you spelt incorrectly there have been spelt correctly within the past half an hour. Someone even pointed your mistakes out to you. I am beginning to seriously doubt your intentions...

(although if you are attempting to get a reaction you have succeeded)

Thomas's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:59

It's not arrogance it's simply opinion, we worked hard to get into the school and those who didn't shouldn't be allowed take our status away from us simply for succeding.

James Butnorth's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:12

Another example of truly appalling spelling!

I dont wish to say who I am's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:42

I actually dont understand what Greg T has said which was arrogant.
another* school* boy* arrogance*
Are you sure youre not just upset because your boys didnt get it in to reading school?
Pupils at comprehensive like Maiden Erlegh still get A*s at their GCSEs, why dont you make your boys do extra work at home along with all their school work. After all, the GCSEs results count, not what school you went to

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:00

you shouldnt critisise someone for not being able to spell, its obvius your just using it to avoid the real issue and to not accept theres some truth in my argument

Andy's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 14:03

Reading School boys work hard for their place. Why does someone deserve a place who is it not committed to learn?

Reading Resident, where abouts do you live in Reading and I'll come give you a dictionary :)

Greg T's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:55

Reading resident, you are most confused. Reading does have a catchment area, it is just bigger than for other schools. Secondly, 'passing' your SATS doesn't mean you should get into a grammar school, it is for the kids who SATS are incredibly easy and get the highest marks, who academically EXCEL.

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

I go to Reading School and can tell you that your statement saying that these schools "do not admit many children from the local area" is most certainly wrong. The large majority of the pupils at my school live in and around the area of Reading, myself residing in Caversham. Although I can't speak for Kendrick I would be surprised if the admission system is much different.

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:58

caversham aint our local community tough which proves my point

Thomas's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:01

The large majority doesn't mean everyone. Read thouroughly before you attempt to argue an invalid point.

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

dont tell me what to do, i red it through the first time, maybe you should jsut acept that im wright

James Butnorth's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:08

Maybe you should learn English then came back and state your arguement.

I dont wish to say who I am's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:47

sorry, this is an argument, the opposing side won't just accept you are right. lol.
just because caversham people come to reading school, whats the problem?
Im sure this wouldnt be a problem if all of the non reading residents move house to reading? is this going to solve your problem?

Greg T's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:56

Reading resident, may I recommend spellchecker...?

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:59

may i recommend you stop being so bloody arragant and show a bit of respect

G22's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:01

I think you lost all pretenses of respect when you suggested shooting "them posh buys."

Laura's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:02

Maybe when you learn how to spell arrogant.

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

Respect is earned, it is not a birthright. I give everyone I meet the same degree of respect, but you have, through your badly-thought out arguments, refusal to adequately rebuff or acknowledge any responses or counter-arguments and continued, blind insistence on "them arragant posh buys takin all of my childrens scool places becos theyre all so bloody posh" have lost every shred of respect I think anybody here could have had for you.

2d's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:24

maybe you should start telling the truth

Alistair's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:58

...sadly sentiment to the fact that sometimes, we really should leave politics to the politicians.

Adam's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:57

What is the obsession about the free school meal statistic?!
At Reading School we are keen on learning and boosting our career choices; very few children don't want to learn.
If you made it a comprehensive then the effort would drop in classes, the high teaching standard would be jeopardised because the teachers want to teach children who are willing (and able) to learn.
This would cause the results to drop and so there would be nowhere for bright children to go to receive the education they deserve without paying.

Dazed&Confused's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 12:59

Could I just point out that whilst spelling is important it is hardly relevant to this argument.

Greg T's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:00

And stop banging on about us being rich and priviliged for goodness sake, you have not got a clue.

Greg T's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:03

Respect to who? Some prejudiced idiot who keeps accusing people like me of being rich and priviliged and claiming I shouldn't be allowed to go to a particular school because i don't live near it?

James Butnorth's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:04

I attended Reading school for seven years. It is now becoming an academy and the suggestion that it is mostly attended by private school pupils is absurd as almost all of those who left in my year would have attended their local comprehensive had they not passed the entrance exam.

I believe the accusation that the school is merely a government funded private school is is entirely unfounded as the school has little or no money to make simple repairs to the existing structure such as repainting classrooms in the main block due to their listed status making it an expansive job. Reading School, also does not currently have the facilities to provide hot school meals for a large proportion of the school and somewhere to eat them. The is no canteen on site and the only designated eating are is under a collection of umbrellas which is, for obvious reasons, not very suitable in wet conditions and only fits about two hundred students at a squeeze.

I think that a number of the people involved with this discussion should take a step back and look at the figures comparing the number of people receiving EMA payments at Reading School and at other local schools and see that it is not the public school environment some of you, who may never have even visited the site itself, seem to believe it is.

I believe that Reading School is an asset to Reading as a town for many different reasons. For a start it provides many opportunities to those who are not a part of the school themselves through lots of gifted and talented teaching hours after school, almost all of which are supplemented by the students themselves on an entirely voluntary basis. These are the very same students that some seem to believe are nothing but little rich boys scrounging a free education. I myself took part in over fifty hours of voluntary service while attending the school and the majority of students from year eleven upwards are also expected to offer their support in a wide variety of voluntary services.

Overall, I believe that what Reading School gives back to the community is more than many other local schools may offer which receive a similar amount of money from the government. I am proud to have attended the school and I am very grateful for the opportunities that I have received. However I know for a fact that many of my friends who attended local comprehensives such as the Forest School in Winnersh received the exact same opportunities that I did and some some such as the MedLink course was funded for them by the school whereas at Reading School we paid the £300+ ourselves as the school could not.

Laura's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:10

Just in response to part of what you said, Kendrick is the same with the lack of funding. In order to repair and refurbish a building that is literally falling down, for which they will need around £20000 they are having to request fundraising help from any parents that can afford it. (Please not, not compulsory help, just those who are wealthier.) Compare this to the multi million pound rebuild that Waingels school has just gone through, which many students of that school feel was unnecessary.

Prior to having the new sixth form block built last year, the building on the site was a 'temporary' building that had been there for over 40 years.

Far less government money is received by these schools than elsewhere simply because they are not struggling with grades.

Josh G.'s picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:10

Blatantly has a kid who didn't get in....Not gunna lie, i got in to this school, and i'm not the brightest person in the world, get your child to work harder, obviously can't get in at the moment so...

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

Can people from school stop with the insulting/disrespectful comments. It's really not helping the argument and just making us all sound like arrogant dicks to be honest.

Reading resident's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:19

I am on your side, i get that you all just want a good education but dusnt everyone? The problem is that society is to nice to the rich nowadays- you see it in hospitals and things when they get their private healthcare and even things which are meant to be fair like the lottery only seems to be won by rich people- at least thats how the news makes it out to be

James Butnorth's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:21

I'm sorry but what is the problem with rich people getting private heath care? surely that is why people work hard, to get money so they can afford the nicer things in life...?

Laura's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:22

What's your definition of rich?

G22's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:25

Yes, rich people can often buy their way into better opportunities.

The fact is that these schools do not allow them to. They select on academic wealth, not monetary.

Be angry all you wish against the social divides that wealth can create, but don't go calling boys of Reading School arrogant, posh and rich because they are defending an institution that has enabled them to learn.

They worked hard and earned their place, they didn't buy it.

G22's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:27

Also a good point, apologies for the implication of my comment below. Mine is to do with social inequality as a result of financial clout in general, not grr 'rich' people.

James Butnorth's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:33

thank you G22

Xander's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:21

I'm just going to list a number of facts:
I've gone to Reading School for 7 years.
I have never been in paid education.
I went to 2 state primary schools (changed in year 5).
I wasn't tutored before taking the Reading School entrance exam (my mum bought me a couple of past papers - if you're serious about your childs education you should be able to manage that).
I came 82nd in the entrance exam.
I live in Twyford, so not quite Reading but local enough (15 minute drive to school, 40 minute cycle).

I definitely wouldn't be looking at getting into Unis as good as I am if it weren't for a grammar school education, which I earnt.

A reading schoolboy, seemingly annoyed.'s picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:21

@ Reading Resident: I live really far away from school, right on the boundary of the catchment area. I'm really quite well off. I guess i shouldnt go to Reading School due to the fact I bought lots of intelligence to get in. NO. That is completely ridiculous. It doesnt matter if you live on the schools playing fields or 15 miles away, ultimately the idea of the school is to train the best to be the best. we dont have a lot of funding, no. The good results dont just come as you went to 'Reading School' - you have to have the underlying intelligence and then the motivation in order to succeed.

Where you live or privilege doesnt matter. here are 2 scenarios.

If youre so keen on your kid getting in, encourage them in their work rather than getting so flipping lairy about respect. If you think these 2 schools offer effectively a free private school quality education, you are so so wrong. We work bloody hard. and it shows.

Thomas's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:22

I'm already bored of this, Reading School is fine as it is. There are plenty of schools in the area who provide a good education and the pupils are still equally as capable of obtaining good grades. All I care about is the refectory. Fisher over.

Daniel's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:24

I live in Reading and go to the school, I went to a comprehensive primary school, worked hard and got in. Nothing to do with wealth etc.

If the selection process is unfair so is that for universities and jobs etc. How is it any different?

Greg T's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:27

^ secondary education is compulsory, jobs/uni isn't...

whataloadofrubbish's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:34

I don't quite understand what these parents are trying to acheive. Are they thinking that by removing the selection process, their kids will have a better chance of getting into 'outstanding' schools such as Reading School and Kendrick? Clearly they do not realise that the selection process is the main cause of what makes the school 'outstanding'!

The school receives less funding than other comprehensive schools, and the calibre of teachers is such that they will only be affective teaching kids who want to learn, which 99% of students at these schools do, unlike many other kids at comprehensive schools!

I was a student at the school, I lived in Reading, and was by no means from a priviledged background. I went to my local primary school, not private school and received EMA while I was at Reading. I can guarantee you from personal experience, which is without doubt more truthful that these bias statistics of free meals Francis Gilbert is picking up, that I was not in a minority! Take a look at people who received EMA at the school and you will be suprised.

Reading School doesnt currently have a canteen so of course nobody applies for free meals!

Finally, if these parents are successful in removing the 11+ from the school, it will absolutely destroy all the traditions that the school have. Even though it would be a tragedy as kids from backgrounds like mine would be unable to attend the school, I for one hope that if these deluded parents are successful, the school becomes private to protect its traditions, as loss of these and loss of one of the highest ranked schools in the country would be an even larger tragedy.

Matt's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:36

Sounds like sour grapes for those that did not pass the exam?

Devon Sanders's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 13:37

@reading resident
I attend Reading School and have done so since I was 11. Quite frankly, I, and many others, believe that your opinion is completely unfounded rubbish. There are 30 people in my form, 126 in my year. About 10 are boarders as they do not live near enough to use public transport to access the school in reasonable time in the mornings. I live in Wokingham with around 20 others from my year who also have to pay absurd public transport fees to use the train. I admit, there are the rare few that attend my school that have been tutored to pass the entrance exam and are fairly wealthy. I on the other hand am from a 'typical' background. My father has a fairly respectable job working for BT and running a company, also running a charity on the side lines. I have two brothers who attend Maiden Erlegh who both failed to pass the entrance exam. To state that you wish to 'shoot them all for all [you] care' is ridiculous. As stated previously by my peers, selection to Reading School is purely based on your academic ability. Yes, there is NO fee whatsoever and there is no catchment so that a wider range of people can be tested for their intelligence so as to keep up the high standards that the school continues to produce. We receive very little funding from the government to the point where we do not even have a cafeteria and are currently raising funds through donations to build one. We recently applied for academy status and our application was successful, but we are a 'type 2' academy. We will go on to receive very little funds, all the academy status does is allows us to have more control over the structure of the school. We are now ableto change the lesson time if we wish to what we think will best suit the students. I'm sure if you re-read this argument, you will find that the students that have commented are many times more able to form an argument and I suggest that you go and rethink your attitude towards us students, as someone has already stated, just because you are older than us does not mean that you automatically oust our opinions. Thank you.


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