Allison Pearson needs to do her homework

Fiona Millar's picture
In the Daily Telegraph today journalist Allison Pearson claims that a return to selective education would restore the UK “to the premier league”. She trots out the usual misinformation about the so called ‘golden age’ of pre comprehensive English education in which“children from modest backgrounds” were able “ to compete with offspring of the wealthy for university places, thus breaching bastions of hereditary privilege and creating a more diverse group of people at the top of society"

Not for the first time in this highly charged debate, the pro grammar school lobby has got its facts wrong.  It is not the case that the pre comprehensive education system provided a better standard of education for all children. Nor did it give a hand up to many poor children. That myth is usually based on anecdotal examples of individuals rather than the hard evidence, which points in the opposite direction.

The 1959 Crowther Report – commissioned by a Conservative Government to improve the education of 15-18 years olds - had a close look at what selective education meant in practice. Several interesting facts emerged – of the entire national cohort of 16 year olds in the late '50s only 9 % achieved 5 or more O levels. That figure today is around 70%. Moreover 38% of grammar school pupils failed to achieve more than 3 O levels

The report also pointed out that the rapid rise in school rolls after the war ' largely increased public clamour against a competitive element in grammar school selection, which seems to parents to be contrary to the promise of secondary education according to "age, aptitude and ability" ' So much for the imposition of comprehensive education against parents wishes ( another myth regularly trotted out by supporters of grammar schools).

The Committee used a national survey of English 15-18 year olds carried out in 1957 by the Central Office of Information, and a survey of National Service recruits carried out 1956-8. The latter was, of course, boys only.

In both surveys, boys from homes of semi-skilled or unskilled workers “were much under-represented in the composition of selective schools...Likewise they are over-represented in membership of non-selective schools. The converse is true of boys from professional or managerial homes, who have far more than their proportional weight in selective schools and far less in the case of other schools”. This is no different today – the proportion of children eligible for free school meals in the remaining grammar schools is around 2% compared to a national average of 17% in all other schools.

Specifically, the Social Survey found that whilst 1 in 10 fathers of grammar and technical school leavers were semi or unskilled workers, almost 1 in 4 fathers of secondary  modern or all-age leavers fell into this group.

The National Service survey concluded that ”a majority of the sons of professional people go to selective schools, but only a minority of manual workers' sons do so”. “A non-manual worker's son is nearly three times as likely to go to a selective school as a manual worker's”.

On school leaving ages, the survey reported that 38% of the sons of the professional and managerial classes stayed till 18+ compared with 9% unskilled manual workers'; 40% of professional and managerial sons left before 17 compared with 81% manual workers.

The overall picture is of an education system that wasn’t even serving grammar school pupils particularly well, let alone those rejected at 11.

Ms Pearson ends her article by comparing the selection of a 15 year old boy with an aptitude for football by a premiership club  with academic selection at 11, before calling on  Sir Michael Wilshaw, the new Chief Inspector at Ofsted ( who she likens to a premiership manager) to restore the same competitive principle to schooling.

Again, sadly, she hasn’t done her research. Most scientific evidence now suggests that teenagers brains can change, IQ isn’t fixed, as the early advocates of selective education believed, and judging children on the basis of a single test is neither reliable, nor comparable to the footballing skills of a 15 year old ( although early potential in football  is often not fulfilled).

Professor Cathy Price of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London recently published her research in the journal Nature.

The paper suggests that the results could be "encouraging to those whose intellectual potential may improve and… a warning that early achievers may not maintain their potential".

Professor Price said: "We have a tendency to assess children and determine the course of their education relatively early in life.

"But here we have shown that their intelligence is likely to be still developing.

"We have to be careful not to write off poorer performers at an early age when in fact their IQ may improve significantly given a few more years."

Finally – she may be looking to Sir Michael in vain. He has always been a firm advocate of all ability comprehensive schools with balanced intakes. In Melissa Benn’s excellent book “School Wars” (p 108) he describes selective education as “a disaster”.

Do your homework next time Allison.






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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 11:51

Fiona - your article succinctly debunks the grammar school myth. Your argument is backed up by evidence from the OECD which finds repeatedly that the best-performing school systems in the world tend not to segregate children.

Germany, with its tri-partite system, is often cited as an example of a good, selective sytem. But in 2006, a UN inspector severely criticised the German system because it excluded poor children and those from immigrant communities. The Hauptschule, the schools on the bottom rung of the German system, are increasingly seen as schools for “leftovers”. And the differences between the top and bottom in the German system are very large. (page 455)

A guest's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 11:57

Unfortunately Fiona this post will not be read by the majority of Daily Telegraph bloggers who repeatedly ignore any evidence that contradicts their view that the abolition of Grammar schools was all a socialist plot.

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 12:39

Really? From what I can see many of the comments on this site seem to come from people who do share the prejudices of the Daily Telegraph!

Raymond Dance's picture
Fri, 20/01/2012 - 14:46

So anyone who doesn't agree with you is automatically some kind of bigot? You are a piece of work.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 11:55

There is a demand for grammar school places from parents who pay, as do we all, a lot of tax.

Surely it is right for that demand to be satisfied?

Of course we should not write off poor performers at an early age. Indeed, they can enter Grammar school at a later stage.

Reinforce success by setting it free and concentrate remedial efforts where they are most needed.

lolla's picture
Tue, 01/10/2013 - 13:38

What's wrong with being a manual worker Fiona? Just because you're a manual worker doesn't mean you're not aspirational. You could be a carpenter or a bricklayer by choice, because you like being self-employed and you might have a son who wants to be an astrophysicist and if he can get into a grammar school, then what's the problem? Also, please consider some qualitative analysis instead of simply selected statistics. GCSEs are not the same as O'levels. Try looking at a 1975 O'level maths paper and compare it to a Higher Tier GCSE maths paper. Do the same with chemistry or French. The GCSEs are very easy by comparison. No wonder so many more pass them. It's not the fault of the children who sit them, but the fault of those who think it's better to have nobody fail, than have a qualification that counts for something. It's not doing our children any favours in a global economy.

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 12:24

There's also the demand for Grammar school places from the parents who would like to embrace co-ed all ability school but feel that their local LEA controlled by a right wing council e.g Kent is ideologically and professionally incapable of creating such schools.

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 12:38

the " who pay a lot of tax" argument could only wash with the right certainly wouldn't with the families that pay tax yet find their children marginalised in a secondary modern.

What needs to be done is for the sec mod parents to go "OY!!"

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 13:25

Tim - most parents pay taxes. The "demand" for grammar school places comes from parents who think their children will be among the one-in-four who would be selected for a place. That "demand" dies when the parents find that their child is among the un-selected three-in-four. That's what happened in the late 50s, early 60s.

Parents don't choose grammar schools - the grammar schools chooses the child. And the rest, the majority, have to attend a school which is a secondary modern in all but name. The latter may provide a good education, even one superior to that offered by a grammar school, but it will still be perceived locally as second-best, with second-best teachers offering a second-best experience to second-best children. That is not what parents of three-in-four children "demand".

Fiona Millar's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 17:25

What about the parents who pay a lot of tax who don't want their children branded as failures at 11. People seem to forget that a) it was this group who turned on a then Tory government fifty years ago calling for an end to academic selection b) the flip side of grammar schools is secondary moderns. Could you point me to the campaign to bring back the secondary moderns?

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 12:41

the failure of the LEA to provide fair and equitable life chances of course brings up to the idea of the Free School as a philanthropic device.

What could be a more effective way of subverting the arcane prejudices of the grammar obsessed middle classes than the emergence of the " KUDOS COMP" i.e the future planned expansion of the WLFS into partnerships with the Kent secondary moderns ?

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 19:04

Why should secondary moderns mean marginalisation?

If your point is that alternative schools on offer for tax paying parents are inadequate, then we are both agreed on the fact that those schools require extra resources in order to effect a remedy.

That remedy has nothing to do with restricting grammar school places for the academically more capable.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 19:12

The point is to create an alternative to grammar schools for those less academically inclined that does not mean they are branded as failures.

I failed History 'O' level but got a History degree.

It is on the alternatives to grammar schools that more effort should be expended.

I am certainly not suggesting the return of the secondary modern. My guess is that the answer must surely come from a much more diverse secondary education sector with any number of different options on offer to suit different aptitudes.

But restricting Grammar school places for those who want them and are capable of achieving them does not help that end.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 19:19

Understood. But grammar schools can and will only expand if there are sufficient pupils to meet the exacting criteria. They should, and are, allowed to expand to meet that demand.

My point is simply that that must be a good thing.

If the schools on offer for those not getting a grammar school place are inadequate, that is surely an entirely separate issue and, I agree, one that needs urgent attention.

I just don't see that restricting the number of grammar school places helps anyone..

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 20:27

Well Tim,
I think I'm going to give Kent parents the benefit of the doubt and assume you represent the minority and that all of those with kids at the sec mods and a fair proportion of those with kids at the Grammars would much prefer a sh*t hot comp for their kids without putting their kids through the stress of the 11 plus. This clearly can't happen unless such parents turn away from the Grammar schools . You'll find me standing with Fiona Millar , Allan Beavis and Toby Young in the corner all wearing our " Comprehensives Rock!!" T-shirts.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 22/01/2012 - 12:22

I'm obviously not expressing myself clearly.

I am a huge fan of Toby Young, excellent comprehensives, free schools, academies and as much diversity as possible.

All children have skills, aptitudes. The more diversity in education, regulated, clearly, the more chance of allowing those aptitudes to blossom.

But where those aptitudes lend themselves to a Grammar school education and that is what parents want and the Grammar School is successfully turning out excellent student, why restrict them.

I just don't see how limiting Grammar school places helps comprehensives, free schools etc.

Tim Bidie's picture
Sun, 22/01/2012 - 12:26

What will turn those parents who don't want their children to go through the 11 plus away from Grammar schools is to have other available school places at other excellent alternative schools. That is where maximum effort should be directed, not in artificially restricting successful grammar schools, surely?

Tim Bride has written: "I just don’t see how limiting Grammar school places helps comprehensives, free schools etc."

He has also used the word "bigot" and somewhere he repeated "surely" and wrote something like "how can that be a bad thing?"

My answer to the rhetoric involved would be to suggest that none of the propositions we are engaging with are self evident. There are no absolutes, no "surely"s. Education is essentially a process of values and differences.

So when I say "the presence of academically selective schools in one place nullifies even the possibility of comprehensive schools nearby" I am speaking from a set of beliefs that are unlikely to be shifted by simple facts. I no more "see" how one set of priorities are better than mine than Tim does.

Pedagogical variety is a value that Tim and I probably share. However, dividing children into different schools at the age of 11 on the basis of the social distinctions that people might want to call aptitude or intelligence is something I believe to be wrong in many ways. There is no way that Tim could persuade me otherwise. I think Tim believes that dividing children up at 11 provides opportunities for all. I don't think there is any way I could persuade him otherwise and I wouldn't waste much time trying to.

Our positions are expressions of a different sets of values and different views of the world. In my world the absence of rich children from the single local comprehensive school in the market town where we all lived was a loss to my children, to the rich children and to the country as a whole. In my world, even with rich children opted out I would still rather not split the remainder between different schools.

For the time being Tim's world view is in the ascendant, so I make the best of it and wait for another election and encourage my children and grandchildren to be open hearted. What I will not do is accept his apparent view that those who share my (probably socialist) values are wrong or unenlightened. I don't think Tim is in error, I just don't share his values.

Tim Bidie's picture
Thu, 26/01/2012 - 10:41

I can't see any use by me of the word 'bigot' here.

My use of 'surely' is mean't to be questioning rather than emphatic.

To summarise my views on education, and other things: I believe, as a country, that we need less top down prescription and much more hands off encouragement of success through deregulation and a smaller state.

Set the enthusiasts free in education, as they have in Finland, and the results will come.

My apologies to Tim Bidie for attributing to the use of the word "bigot" to him. It was Raymond Dance who used it in the immediately preceding post. Sorry Tim.

I think the word "surely" is mostly used when the writer is sure. I have to confess now that I understand even less of what you have written than I first thought.

Tim Bidie's picture
Thu, 26/01/2012 - 16:28

I'm blaming my punctuation.

The central issue here is how to improve state education.

That will not be achieved by Whitehall favouring either the comprehensive system or grammar school/secondary moderns.

Thus Grammar schools/11 Plus are red herrings.

The 11 Plus will never return nationwide.

However many existing grammar schools are successful and popular and expanding.

I cannot see why new grammar schools should not be allowed to set themselves up where there is parental demand.

That will not affect the goal of improved education across the country.

What will radically improve state education is a return to chaotic diversity under benign regulation; the more choice in schools and thir academic offerings, the better, surely?

A guest's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 13:50

Agreed that there are some who write on here who share the prejudices of the Telegraph but most of the people replying positively to Allison Pearson's piece probably will never read anything on this site. I think this is a shame since I think your piece is very good.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 14:52

A contributor called Assegai has just posted on the Telegraph site under Pearson's article: "Fiona Millar has the perfect riposte to the myths propagated in this article". This is followed by a link to this site.

A guest's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 15:00

I look at the blogs on the Telegraph and Assegai consistently supports comprehensive education. There are a few others who ask people to look at the evidence for/against Grammar schools and even provide links to it but sadly this is far outweighed by people who quote their own/ parents/ grandparents experience as evidence.

Nigel Ford's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 15:38

The poster called Assegai is me.

Shame there aren't more other DT posters who share comprehensive school sentiments (although "brookbond" gets the stuffy traditionalists spluttering into their drink).

The first reference I made to Fiona's blog on Allison's article was deleted and when I tried again the same thing happened.

Unfortunately in my experience it's not uncommon to have posts removed if they go against the grain.

A guest's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 15:56

Out of interest are posts ever deleted on this site or ever not posted.
I had looked for Assegai's post after Janet had pointed it out here and wondered why I could not find it.

O. Spencer's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 20:10

Nigel - thanks for revealing you are Assegai - I've read many of your comments over on the Telegraph blogs for months and have often wondered if Assegai and Nigel Ford who posts on LSN were one and the same..

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 16:20

Assegai's post seems to have been deleted. Fortunately, a poster called elkins has alerted the Telegraph to this.

Nigel Ford's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 20:53

It's all the Telegraph's fault.

If they hadn't deleted my post - twice- referring to Fiona's blog on LSN, I needn't have said anything.

Do you post on there? If so under what name?

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 23:29

I commented several times under Toby Young’s more rabid and rancid Telegraph globs, most memorably when I quoted from Laura McInerney’s excellent book on the pitfalls of setting up a Free School. One piece of excellent advice was to avoid polemicism and getting into competitive fights with existing schools but this is something that a professional polemicist can’t resist, even though under a rational government, he would not have been awarded £15m for a vanity project. Within half an hour, my comment was removed, not because it breached etiquette or was defamatory but because it totally contradicted what Chairman Young had written.

I wondered at the time if the Tellytubbygraph employed a moderator who sat there staring away at the plethora of globs but I wonder now whether the authors themselves don’t have the power to censor comments that sail too close to the wind.

What was amusing two weeks ago was to find Toby’s latest apologia in The Spectator, in which he attempted to draw a line/bury accusations of “homophobia” after it was raised again on LSN. Despite having a Post A Comment button, it did not actually allow anyone to make a comment.

What is clear is that the Right Wing media – digital or otherwise – practices censorship. The moderate, liberal ones, like LSN, allow freedom of speech, however unpleasant some comments may be. And the Right Wing have a nerve to accuse those who question them of ignoring democracy.

Laura's book on Free Schools is far superior to Toby Young's recently published tome, by the way.

For ordinary conservatives, education is a matter of protecting privilege. "Parental choice" sums it all up. The facts that matter to these decent people are the hard data of how socially acceptable a school's current pupils seem to be. However incontrovertible our evidence, there will always a be a "yes, but" that expresses this to parental anxiety about the threat of social mobility that (inevitably) would lead to nice children slipping down the socila and economic ladder. Whether its invalid and unreliable IQ testing or carefully nuanced residence criteria, they will generally vote for anything that keeps a status quo that has their family near the front of the queue. The mythic Gove - catapulted into government through scholarships and top marks in selective education is as keen to close the hatches as were the (rare) successful working class grammar school boys of Jackson and Marsden's classic 1962 study "Education and the Working Class”.

My own experience of Grammar School in the early 60s inspired me to make a compensatory lifetime in education, catrching up on all the learning I had missed, and trying (unsuccessfully) to inprove things for others.

Our sad nostalgia for older forms of education should be seen as one important factor in explaining the poor quality of leadership in so many areas of British life. We are recruiting from a small and relatively shallow pool.

Nigel Ford's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 16:33

Although Eton and Conservatism are sometimes spoken in the same breath, particularly when it comes to those closest to David Cameron, the area of Rotherham can now boast 2 Conservative Cabinet ministers who were educated at comprehensive schools in the area, William Hague and the recently promoted Justine Greening.

Eton and Rotherham comprehensive schools sharing a common bond?

Watch out for Rotherham turning blue at the next election!

Raymond Dance's picture
Fri, 20/01/2012 - 15:22

On the contrary it's always seemed to me that it is not conservatives but the statist 'left' who are most interested in permanently entrenching divisions and class privilege. After all, when everybody is well-educated and financially secure there's no more need for armies of busybodies. :-)

It's a good point Nigel. I taught for a long time on Teesside - which has a lot in common with Doncaster. Both areas have large working class populations, industrial devastation, Labour politics, and good comprehensive schools. They also have affluent upper-middle class families who benefit from cheaper, better housing and a better immediate environment than their equivalent families in the Home Counties.

What they don't have are large numbers of long-established interconnected wealthy families with peer groups running to hereditary peers, newspaper magnates and third generation Old Etonians. William Hague is a very different kind of Tory to Cameron and Osborne - a mere grammar school boy, recognisably Yorkshire. Justine Greening is similarly meritocratic, (Oakwood Comprehensive School and University of Southampton).

Society has always had a route for some lowly folk into high office - usually conditional on their accepting the values of the status quo and usually in low numbers relative to the pool of able young people who are left at base camp. However, the ways that educational selection filters pupils has always tended to reinforce rather than change social bias and social persistence. Even widespread comprehensivisation has done less than its early champions hoped.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 20/01/2012 - 16:10

I think the left would consider that an egalitarian society would be an immense achievement. According to the OECD, income inequality is growing faster in the UK than any other rich nation, the gap coming about due to "the rise of a financial services elite who, through education and marriage, have concentrated wealth into the hands of a tiny minority."

It is this elite which dominates the ruling class, particularly within the Tory party. With the gap widening, I would imagine that busybodies still have quite a bit of work to do yet, despite the irritation of the entitled few.

Nigel Ford's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 21:07

Thanks Sam.

Just a minor point but although Hague did initially start at Ripon GS, I believe he moved to Wath-on-Dearne comprehensive school, and received the bulk of his secondary schooling there, when it had already been designated as a comprehensive.

Raymond Dance's picture
Fri, 20/01/2012 - 16:39

“the rise of a financial services elite who, through education and marriage, have concentrated wealth into the hands of a tiny minority.”

This simply isn't true.

These elites are largely created by the interference of an incompetent state in education and the wider economy. Human institutions develop through trial and error and the example of pathfinders. If you insist that all institutions of a given type (schools, hospitals ... whatever) must be managed identically and according to a spurious model of 'best practice' devised by people like Fiona Millar and based on the sort of bogus statistics that she quotes above then you suppress experimentation and the urge to improve. The result is stagnation and decline.

Monolithic systems always fail. Not sometimes. Not most of the time. Always.

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Mon, 23/01/2012 - 10:45

Personally I feel that the absence of Right-wing MPs educated at Comprehensives is an ACCOLADE for Comprehensive Education not an indictment.

When my great-Aunt at my wedding proudly informed me her grandson had just become a Tory agent in Birmingham I had to restrain myself from hugging her and saying how sorry I was.

R's picture
Mon, 23/01/2012 - 13:39

Teeside also used to have excellent grammar schools; my parents (grammar school children themselves) taught in them for years. By the time I was of school age they'd been done away with, to my parents' distress, my father being one of the 'anecdotal examples' Fiona cites. He escaped a life of grinding poverty (the 30's definition) to make it to one of the top UK universities, thanks to his local grammar.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 20/01/2012 - 16:50

Raymond Dance - could you explain how the statistics which were derived from the 1959 Crowther report can be bogus? Do you suspect Sir Geoffrey Crowther (Chairman Central Advisory Council for Education (England)), Deputy Chairman, The Economist Newspaper, of using dubious data?

And how does it follow that in arguing for a fully-comprehensive system for all, a system which is followed by most of the world's best-performing education systems, is likely to "suppress experimentation and the urge to improve"?

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 20/01/2012 - 17:00

It is the ruling elite that is the monolithic structure which is failing us right now.

Brave of you to dismiss the findings of the OECD but here is what they recommended:

“Employment is the most promising way of tackling inequality. The biggest challenge is creating more and better jobs that offer good career prospects and a real chance to people to escape poverty”

“Investing in human capital is key. This must begin from early childhood and be sustained through compulsory education” and

“The provision of freely accessible and high-quality public services, such as education, health, and family care, is important.”

The Tory-led coalition is doing none of these things whilst encouraging a two tiered education system in which the most able and advantaged will have access to better education at the same time as lining the pockets or ambitions of profit making companies, sponsors and philanthropists. Meanwhile, the less able and poor will be abandoned to an even bleaker future where the few jobs that are available are going to those that Gove’s education system has favoured from the outset.

The release a few weeks ago of 1981 cabinet papers revealed a Tory plot under Thatcher to manage the decline of Liverpool. It is tempting to see that what we are witnessing now is the managed decline of state education as we know it. The Tories’ relentless attacks on the public sector, on unions, on the poor, on education are as reminiscent of the Thatcher years as is their restoration of class privilege and social division. In fact, Cameron, Gove and Osborne are presiding over deeper cuts, more far-reaching privatisation of public services, rampant inequality and social breakdown than even the Iron Lady herself managed.

Immediately after the summer riots, Cameron went on the attack, blaming gang culture. Inconveniently for him, careful research afterwards showed that most of those arrested were from deprived backgrounds, had been excluded from schools, had special educational needs. The cuts affect this community most and will cut them further adrift into hopelessness and crime.

Just as Thatcher did, the current crop of Tories is destroying communities, creating mass unemployment, redistributing from poor to rich and selecting and segregating children from primary school onwards. Thatcher imposed a neoliberal model now seen to have failed across the world but Cameron and his pals plod on with it, lining their pockets and the pockets of their chums along they way.

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 23/01/2012 - 14:02

Do you think your father wondered what happened to the majority of other children who did not get into a grammar school and whether they had an equal chance to escape the grinding poverty he might have endured? I wonder if he might have supported a system where all children - not just those who passed an exam at 11 - got an equal chance to a good education? Research shows that the presence of grammar schools does not increase standards for everyone and it fact drags down attainment.

R. I would be proud of your Dad and give him the credit for his achievement against the odds. He succeeded despite the existence of Grammar Schools - a disproportionate number of his slighlty less able or diligent primary school friends were held back and given much thinner educational gruel in schools that provided a curriculum that made it more likely that their pupils would not going to University, or even into skilled work.

In my world view, providing one warm room with plenty of food for some of the family does not make a lack of heating or nourishment for those who missed the dinner bell acceptable.

Nigel Ford's picture
Mon, 23/01/2012 - 20:15

It's a shame that public school educated Blair and Harman didn't enter the spirit of the comprehensive ideal when it came to educating their children, creaming off the most elite schools in the state sector miles away from their family home.

If more politicians from all parties were educated at comprehensive schools hopefully they'd take a more enlightened view of comprehensive schooling for their own children. I know that when Hague was leader of the opposition he spoke quite favourably about the benefits of comprehensive education.

David Moore's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 17:05

My letter to the Torygraph - doubt if they will print it:
Allison Pearson's article "Grammar Schools would put us in the Premier League" shows a lack of understanding when trying to compare athletic or artistic prowess with academic selection for schooling. The 11 plus examination process takes place at a particular time in the life of a child when those children involved can have an age range difference of almost one year. Compare this to selection by Premier League clubs which takes place over a number of years and is always a fluid process allowing those selected to join or drop out over a period of time. Indeed it is interesting to note the small number of those selected for the 15/16 year old England Schoolboy teams that actually represent England at full international level as adults, proving that development of soccer skills can be variable according to age.Selection for other athletic and artistic activities mirror this allowing for the variable development of these skills to be

recognised as and when they develop.
If Ms Pearson wants schools to join the Premier League she should look no further than Finland, where attainment standards are consistently amongst the highest in the world, and she will find to her chagrin, a non-selective schools system where every child is able to achieve their potential without being labelled a failure at 11 years of age.
David Moore

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 17:36

Very good letter. Hope they publish it.

Ben Taylor's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 22:30

So the point about your opposition to selection is not the principle of it but rather the operation; which when we conisder grammar schools means we should perhaps create more points of transition after 11+ and sixth form entry to and from grammars where they exist?

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Sun, 22/01/2012 - 21:08

and the best way to achieve that is to have single site schools with strong leaders and robust streaming and a ethos that puts the gifted teachers who can keep a child alienated from society sitting engaged in a classroom for a whole lesson on an equal footing with the teacher that can coach a gifted child in the absurdities of the Oxbridge interview.


Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 19:32

I don't get the impression the Telegraph has any interest in the quality of its journalism bar perhaps avoiding getting sued. Their job is to publish controversial stuff which will drive traffic through their online area. As papers move from press to online presentation it is becoming more and more important to get good antagonistic interaction going in the comments to articles as engagement is a strong driver of traffic and therefore advertising revenue.

It's interesting to talk to the hacks who've been explicitly involved in understanding and developing this dynamic. They often deliberately interact with the comments sections of articles to promote engagement with inflammatory remarks. There's no point in publishing intelligent stuff because when people read it they don't feel like contradicting it....

I don't think many of the are properly aware of the consequences of their actions yet.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 19/01/2012 - 23:36

Do Telegraph bloggers get paid per comment I wonder?


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