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 L K jr's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 14:38

O LORD!!! I have a dream.. that little posh boys, and little rich boys may get shot in the street together, so that this apartheid that is crushing good honest folk may end!
O LORD!!! i have a dream... that dirty little kids from outside the reading area don't go to schools near me!!
O LORD!! I have a dream... That free school meals Be made available for all!!

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


Reading School Boy.'s picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 14:40

Lambo... academically capable?? Didnt you come like 96th ;)

kendrickgirl's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 14:46

Back to the points about free school meals and wealthy students, well to be honest its ridiculous. It quite clear why there are quite a lot of private school kids in grammar schools. Private school children are more likely to be brought up wanting to learn and get good grades because of the ethos of their schools and the attitudes of their parents. A lot of less wealthy children however, arent brought up with this same way of thinking and, I speak from experience, a lot of less wealthy children (who are on FSM) don't want to go to grammar schools because they know that it will be hard work and a lot of them can't be bothered. Therefore, there will be a very small percentage of children on FSM at grammar schools, it's common sense.There is a connection between wealth and intelligence/hard working, however it is not a reason for selection.

Bob Marsh's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 14:46

Anyone else notice the lack of Francis Gilbert now that he has no real argument?

Peter's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 14:46

If there aren't enough good schools in Reading the answer is not to get rid of the best schools but to get more good ones. Stopping good schools being good doesn't benefit anyone.

random_bloke's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 14:47

Unfortunately there seem to be some misgivings and myths about Reading School which us past and present students are trying to dispel... it actually promotes social equality by giving people from ANY background, ANY income and ANY race an equal opportunity - intelligence is the only factor applicants are judged on. I don't think it's arrogant to say that we're all highly capable at the school, and it is this even distribution of ability and talent that keeps standards at such a high level. Unfortunately, to the naked eye it seems that jealous parents - or parents with children who simply aren't prepared to work hard to get to the best places - are making wild and unfounded assumptions about the nature of the school, and want to water down standards to promote 'equal opportunities'. Well, sorry, but everyone has an equal opportunity to work hard to pass the entrance test if it's the right place for them. It's where the hard-working and bright are rewarded for thinking for themselves and for putting the hours in, not an elitist institution based on how much money Daddy earns. Probably best to sort the facts first, guys.

Spoons's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 14:52

Saying that grammar schools like Reading School are unfair is an absolute disgrace; I live in Lower Earley, just behind Earley Police Station, and anybody who is local to Earley will know that this is no more that a 15 minute walk to the 'local' secondary school, Maiden Erlegh. I say 'local' because even though we live only a few minutes away from the school, in the same postcode, me, my brother and my sister would all have been declined entry to Maiden Erlegh, and why? Because of course we weren't in the 'local' catchment area.

Reading School claims to be a 'selective school' and this is exactly what it is, it is a grammar school. Therefore entry is based solely on academic performance, NOT where you live, and most certainly NOT how much money mummy and daddy have.

Maiden Erlegh however is supposed to be a state catchment school, which implies that people who live more or less on its doorstep should be allowed a place there, which when i was applying for secondary schools was most certainly not the case. My older brother and I were lucky enough to gain a place at Reading School and so this was not a problem for us, but my sister has had to travel to a school in Wokingham for the last 5 years because she couldn't get a place in the school just a few minutes down the road.

'Reading Resident' answer me this: Which is more unfair, your kids not getting into Reading School (a SELECTIVE GRAMMAR school) because they didn't make the cut in the 11+ exams and having to go to Maiden Erlegh instead, which really isn't very far away from Reading School by the way, OR my sister not getting into Maiden Erlegh when clearly our locality to the school should've secured her a place, and instead having to go to a school in Wokingham?

Oh and also, may i ask, would you be making this argument against Reading School's selective nature if your boys had got in??

Reading School Boy.'s picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 14:57

Reading School Boy.'s picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 14:58

12 mins in.

Goose's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:01

These guys should really grow a pair and keep their posts visible, I'm trying to read here...

Reading School Boy.'s picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:03

goose mate its all mish mash. lets come back tomorrow.

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:10

Please don't come back unless you have either intelligent or serious comments to make. This site is happy to give space to people with a range of opinions but we will not tolerate foul or abusive language, especially of a racist nature, or relating to people with special needs or disabilities.
I found found the thread illuminating in many ways. It has show just how divisive the issue of selection is and also taught me a lot about the educational standards, prejudices and social awareness of some young people who are educated in what are (apparently) two of the country's best schools.

Jamie's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:19

One has to wonder why you chose this comment as the platform for your issue. Whilst pointless, I fail to see how it could be contrived as "foul or abusive", "racist" or have anything to do with "people with special needs or disabilities", though certain other comments in this thread have shown, advocating the shooting of all members of both schools, or suggesting that they deserve to be eaten by Thai people in curry...

2d's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:20

Surely your comment shows your latent bias- when 2 posters make some slightly offensive posts you complain yet when reading resident says that he would like to shoot some of those attending reading school you ignore him/her if this doesn't show the hypocrisy of liberal pc guardianista then nothing will

also for the record nobody at our school has a sports car we're not even allowed to drive onto the school site

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


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

I find any language that suggests that I only went to Reading School because I was 'posh' or 'rich' abusive. I am neither of these, I studied at Reading School because I am intellegent but more importantly because I WORKED BLOODY HARD to get there. So Fiona Millar, you are clearly very naive to think that this debate has taught you anything of that which you have just claimed. You are so detatched from what these schools are like and how beneficial they are to society as a whole, beneficial to people who dont go to these schools.

A final point, EVERYONE has the same chance to get into these school, there may be people who had what it takes at such schools, but unfortunatly that's life, there isn't enough supply to meet the demand.

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

Fiona Millar this is the most biased comment I have seen so far! It is quite clear that you have your own agenda and have no wish to accept all of our clearly well thought out points in favour of highlighting one or two immature comments. Most of these immature comments seem to be a direct result of the pathetic and deliberately provocative posts as aforementioned in the other responses to your comment. Your comment is a disgrace and you should be ashamed of yourself. Have a look back through the discussion and look at the number of time Reading and Kendrick students are stereotyped before you begin making accusations!

James Butnorth's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:04

That comment makes clear that you do not support the current system in place at Reading School as the comments posted on this site by the eighteen year old recent Reading School students have put forwards the most compelling arguments, most of which have been said in a constructive and well meant manner. Absolutely nobody who is supporting Reading School and the values it maintains has been racist or disrespectful to anybody disabled in any way. I find it very offensive that you would suggest that and also that the students of Reading School are prejudiced and socially unaware. You also have absolutely no ground to stand on when you dispute that the two schools in question are two of the country's finest and I think that, quite amusingly, yours has been the most offensive comment on this discussion, something which you seem to feel is okay as it is directed at mere schoolboys.

Dan W's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:17

Fiona I would love to meet you in person, I would also love the parents on here along with your fellow editors to have the decency to allow an organised live debate to take place. I will defend Reading School with everything I have, I spent five years at a comprehensive and my hard work, not wealth [rather a lack of it], has been rewarded with my current place. A place which I am very grateful to hold and one which will certainly increase my social mobility! However I admit that I too had some views of Reading School boys before I arrived, I expected arrogance, snobbishness and wealth. I have not found that to be true at all. Almost all the students have been very humble, appreciative of their education and happy to participate in community service. Nor have they been particularly wealthy! I'd very much like you to have met the students of Reading and Kendrick before you jump to assume that we're all rich and should be packed off private schools.

Luke Barratt's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:34

I'm afraid that those on the other side of the argument are the ones espousing the racially abusive and personally offensive views. Comments like 'posh twats' and 'ship you all off to Thailand' spring to mind.

You don't know what you are chatting's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 17:32

Fiona, You realise that you are forming your views on what you experienced. Grammar schools are not what they used to be. The 11+ exam doesn't exist any more. The school is very linked with society and many of us constantly go in and do activities such as Latin and Public Speaking with primary schools in the close proximity. You are being extremely short sighted! Grammar schools have changed a lot in the last few decades. Stop basing your view on the ridiculous 11+ system that used to be there and actually come over to our school and talk to some students!!!! I genuinely invite you. If you want to see the true grammar school, I will actually personally organise it myself. Then your stupid and biased comments will look very bad and misguided indeed. Seriously if you want to come and have a look. Just reply back to this post and we will talk.

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:07

I don't agree with your arguments but we are happy to publish them. The facts about these two schools seem quite clear. They take far fewer children eligible for free school meals than their neighbours. That is a feature of grammar schools all over the country which is why we oppose academic selection.

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

Well said!

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

WE have removed the racist and abusive comments which is why you can't see them.

LSN are idiots's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:16

Stop going back to this free school meals crap: it's done on intelligence.

whataloadofrubbish's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:19

Yes we may take fewer children who are RECEIVING free meals, but your statistics say nothing about those who are ELIGIBLE like you have just claimed. As it has been made perfectly clear in this debate, Reading school has no cafeteria/canteen, so people eligible for free school meals, may not have actually applied and thefore may not receive the meals, as there are no meals available to receive!

I have seen no discussion from yourself Fiona, or Francis on this point, so can only assume you both know that you are wrong, and are continuing to pick statistics that show your point, no matter how twisted and incorrect they may be.

Cave Johnson's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:21

Whilst I cannot speak for Kendrick, at Reading, there is no cafeteria, and I have been shown only data on people currently receiving FSM, rather than actual eligibility for it. I would argue that EMA is a far better statistic. You say this is reflected around the country, but there is no reason why the selection processes for these schools should make it so. More research is perhaps needed here to find out why this is.

LSN are idiots's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:50

The reason there ever were comments of that variety is because the people arguing in your favour are idiots - half of them do not understand the issue and the others don't realise how good grammar schools are. Take Reading resident for example, he was called rude things because grammar school students get frustrated having to talk to people who can't write a single sentence without 8 spelling errors.

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

Tenuous is the relationship between free school meals and the selective system - it's not a failing of the selective system that only 0.5% of Reading School students are eligible for free school meals, but a failing of previous governments to rightly address problems of social inequality.
The fact that a tiny amount of RS students are eligible relates to the fact that in this country, if you're born poor, you'll remain poor. If you're poor, you'll tend to live in a deprived area. If you live in a deprived area, you're not going to receive the same opportunities as, for example, a richer area. However, the actions of the current government, in increasing funding for those schools in under-privileged areas will be a success (as is already shown by inter-generational attitudinal differences) and in the next few years, I believe we'll see an increase in the diversity in selective schools, like Reading or Kendrick.

2d's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:12

Did you not also say

Fiona Millar says:
26/05/11 at 3:15 pmClearly the issue here is that Reading School is not really a local school since it rejects local residents in favour of pupils from much further away. We do not filter comment by the way, but we do trash abusive, racist, or personal comments that have no part to play in a sensible debate.

So do you or do you not filter or are you like your husband obsessed with spin

RS's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:53

This very poll is abusive and stupid!

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

One reason is that many parents who can afford to do so, pay for private tuition to help their children pass the tests. This is well documented in many of the fully selective authorities like Bucks, where the LA recently produced a report on this issue.

Hursty The History Tiger's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:09

I think it's quite unfair that the brightest kids should suffer because one coven has decided it doesn't want to send it's kids to Bulmershe. But then again, more was lost on Mohacs Field...

Mike L's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:26

Is that you, History Repair Man?

Cave Johnson's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:10

Grammar schools aren't about why, they're about why not. You ask: why are so many of our colleagues intelligent? I say: why not marry non-selective schools if you love them so much. In fact, why not invent a special safety school that won't reject your children, because you are quite clearly not listening.

Cave Johnson's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:11

They say great intelligence is built on the shoulders of giants - not here. At Reading we do all our education from scratch; no hand holding.

Cave Johnson's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:37

When your children don't get into grammar schools, don't make a petition! Demand to see grammar schools' manager! MAKE GRAMMAR SCHOOLS RUE THE DAY THEY THOUGHT THEY COULD NOT TAKE CAVE JOHNSON'S CHILDREN! Do they know who i am!? I'm the man that's gonna burn their schools down! With my children! I'm gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible child! That'll burn your school down!

Reading School Boy.'s picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:21

Fiona.... I agree the abusive language might not be right, but do you not agree it was stirred by wholly jealous parents. Thats effectively what the argument comes down to. "My child didnt get in, and were not very well off, so that means you have been prejudice." The whole idea is a means of justifying the idea that the persons child is amazing and deserves a place wherever. When they dont get in...

Andy Smithers's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:21


The only way you will get truly local schools is that if every school had an admission policy of straight line from the door. Any other method will result in children from further away getting in.
Does this mean that any school that does not have a straight line from the door admissions policy is not a local school ?
What would your preferred admissions policy be that would guarantee a local school ?

Reading School Boy.'s picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:22

Its rejects bad students who live locally for better students who live further away. some students do actually get in when they live nearby...

Reading School Boy.'s picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:25

Youre missing a blatant point. Doing what you suggest encourages rich people to send their kids to the school. they would buy the houses near the best schools. this would leave people who live further away unable to get in, and then they would campaign for an entrance exam. the entire argument is based on simple jealousy.

Murph's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:27

Reading School doesn't reject local children. It accepts the top 100 people in the test. That is all. Its quite simple and really equal, come to think about it.

JANA's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:30

Fiona, I disagree, Reading School is a local school to many of its students. Contrary to popular belief, it does have a catchment area, albeit a larger one that most comprehensives. The school has this large catchment area in order to obtain the best students available and to keep the results of a good quality.
For example, San Marino is bad at football because it is a tiny country with few people to select from, whereas Brazil, a country with a far greater popular, is great at football.
Reading School has a large catchment area for this exact reason.

Dan's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:30

"Both arguments have no credibility whatsoever: things were fine, are fine, and – as long as this ballot fails – will remain fine"

What he said ^

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

To be honest, if you made the school non-selective, you'd be depriving people who actually WANT a really good education and WANT to learn, that ability, as Reading School is a good school with excellent teaching quality.
One of the main reasons we do well, apart from people actually wanting to do well, is that classes are able to be fast paced, and engaging, as we don't just learn the syllabus.
If other people were admitted to the school, and they did not put the effort in, or for whatever reason couldn't keep up, they wouldn't achieve as highly as they could do at another school, or they may bring the class down.
There's also the tradition and respect that Reading School has. It's an honour to go to the school, not something that should be given to people who just live close by. It's for people who deserve it.

JFBizzle's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:34

I haven't read any of this, but I've just got to say this: I don't come from a wealthy background, and at 11, I tried and failed the year 7 test. As a result, I ended up at the local comprehensive. I got a load of stick when I went to Maiden Erlegh for being intelligent and trying to work hard, with my time there being summed up as 'hell'. I then passed the year 9 test, and have attended Reading for the last 5 years. I'm about to leave this summer to go to University and I wouldn't be going there without the school. This school allows the brightest to achieve their full potential and have the pleasure of an environment where talent is not sneered at, but appreciated. I think that it is an absolute disgrace that anyone could ever claim that this school should be a comprehensive.

Education is about merit, not whether you can afford to live in one area or another.

Harry's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:35

Lets face it, 50% of oxbridge places are taken up by private school students, even though only 6% of all pupils go to private schools. Grammar schools are the solution to this inequality. It is private schools that are the problem.

SAVE-8O%-0N-V1AGRA©-C1AL1S©-&-LEV1TRA©'s picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:38



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