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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Dan's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:25

Our school only accept pupils from further away if they are more intellectually gifted! you make it sound like all local kids are rejected so kids from further away can have a place

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

That isn't the issue: the real issue is why some people can't understand that the ability to learn should be a far more important determinant for your education than where you live.

This 'local schools for local people' is a pathetic argument that I would expect from a BNP supporter, or any other far-right person.

At the other end of the spectrum, we also unfortunately experience the argument that because not everyone gains a "good education" (you will hear from my schoolmates that our teachers are rubbish, but I suspect that they are better than those found in comprehensives) then we should all receive a poor education.

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

just to clarify's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:28

So one would assume that reading resident's comment saying that "them posh buys" should be shot will shortly be removed. Thanks.

Jamie's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:28

Yes, and that might be a debate worth having, but certain people on both sides keep taking the issue back to the supposed arrogance and wealth of the reading school pupils. Now, were we to be converted to a comprehensive, I have been told that it would require an estimated £5-7 million for the needed changes to be made. I think this money would be much better spent as part of a new, entirely local comprehensive which would serve the local community, instead of effectively shutting down Britain's top state secondary school (as judged by The Times) to reopen a comprehensive on the same premises.

Greg T's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:30

You trash comments only from people against your view. Most of us arguing against you are still at the school, i.e we know the sort of people who attend and what our school is about. Too many of your people are making outrageous comments about us being rich and priviliged and buying our way in, including that Francis guy on radio, and that is not on. If you want to talk shit about us then so be it, but be ready to get it sent right back.

whataloadofrubbish's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:32

then surely a more sensible suggestion by the parents of Reading would be that the catchment areas for these two schools was made smaller? Rather than removing the selection process that makes these schools so good in the first place?

I would be interested to see how many people against these grammar schools would accept this...

2d's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:34

what a load of crap- local pupils aren't discriminated against there's something called an entrance test which discriminates on basis of intelligence, if you're against then surely nothing should be based on ability i.e. oxford should let anyone in, jobs shouldn't go to the best. I mean where would your warped sense of equality stop

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

What would you define as a local school?

Greg T's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:37

Fiona Miller 'it is not really a local school since it rejects local residents in favour of pupils from much further away'. I know that your natural journalism skills tell you that you need to manipulate words in a way that they favour your side of the argument, but is it really worth telling straight up lies?

An idea's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:38

Want to know why the Reading catchment area is so large, and therefore harder for local kids to get in.
I can tell you, the labour council encouraged this so that the comprehensive system in Reading would still work. As this site says for the comprehensive system to really "work" it needs people from all ability levels. The council did not want all high ability students in Reading to attend the grammar school, and still don't. Therefore the schools have such a large catchment area to allow this to be the case.

LSN are idiots's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:47

They reject local residents who get worse in the entrance exam than pupils from further away, as they should, being a selective school.

Chloe's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:58

Reading School and Kendrick School select people based on academic ability. They do not reject pupils purely based on their location. They do not favor pupils from further away. In fact, Kendrick recently formed a partnership with Reading Girls to encourage more girls from Reading to attend Kendrick Sixth Form.

Reading School and Kendrick are academic havens, it can be said that those who passed tests to get into the schools, were passionate about receiving an excellent education. This is purely the reason these two schools do so well. They do not have any special facilities and, in fact, under the recent Labour government received less funding than some comprehensive schools. This is why these schools have recently become academies (since January and yes they are academies). Remove the entrance exams and these academic havens will be lost, along with the positive attitude to learning. Many new sixth form students come to these schools and have realised that the facilities and teaching are equal to those in comprehensive schools (if not below that mark). The only thing that makes these schools great are the pupils attitudes to learning.

By taking away the selective element to these schools, there will be no opportunity to those who are less fortunate to be able to afford private schools to excel academically to their full potential.

The fact of the matter is, you are saying that all schools should be localised to provide more places for local residents, thinking that with the new comprehensive status, local kids will rise to the level the schools are currently performing. However, the schools will actually fall in standards to that of non-selective schools, and there will be no schools left for academic achievers, of all backgrounds, to excel in. Rather than take this opportunity away from them, you could think of petitioning for a new school to be built. I'm sure Reading Borough Council will consider this if the demands for places in local comprehensives is really that much greater than places supplied.

Liam's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:02

So this is why none of my comments appear :)

Alaa's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 19:57

It does not reject local residents, do people still not unerstand that all there is is AN ENTRANCE EXAM, where are you getting all this stuff about 'middle class' and 'posh', if you are smart enough to get in and within the catchment area then you will get in. If your child is not smart enough then tough, everyone does THE SAME TEST, how is there any rejection or discrimination as mentioned above. I go to reading school and i know loads of chavs who smoke etc... don't know what you are talking about.

Ro P's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:22

DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND! THE SCHOOL DOES NOT FAVOUR WHERE PEOPLE LIVE OR HOW MUCH THEY EARN! THEY FAVOUR YOUR ACADEMIC SKILLS! URGH! SERIOUSLY! Im not going to lie.. im not that smart.. but this school prides itself in the grades that their student's get. Life is a competition, and do be successful you have to work hard.. if your son didn't get into Reading boys he just needs to work harder.. Before i came to Reading boys i had been at a state school and a private school.. both schools didn't push me one single bit, working in an environment knowing everyone is smarter than you made me try harder to get better grades.. I tried in year 7.. didnt get in.. i tried in year 9.. didn't get in.. you didn't see my parents starting some petition just cause its local..
I've wanted to come here since year 7.. and now that i have finally got in and have made the most amazing friends.. (dont even call them posh twats or you'll get merked swear down) and some will probably look at this post and spell check every single word for me.. but the fact now i have been accepted at this school.. and proud of myself of getting into a grammar school.. haters like you are telling people that it should just turn into any ordinary state school? This comment probably stopped making sense by the mid stages.. but basically, JUST LEAVE US ALONE :'( P.S Haters gonna Hate.

RS's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:29

Then it's not a "local school". I don't get the issue. There are plenty of other "local schools" you can send your kids to.

Luke Barratt's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 21:25

Maybe you could trash Francis' comments about apartheid? Or at least ask him to apologize? Or you could look at some of the abusive comments from Dave, or Reading resident. But I suppose that would undermine your position of insisting that all offensive comments are from Reading schoolboys.

Reading boy from east Reading's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 21:32

Oh for gods sake, get this in your head, local people in reading may not be as clever as people outside of Reading. You have worst argument ever, Michael Gove will not let this happen.

Mmm...'s picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 10:11

because they allow people in that want to study. And they give countless community help to local schools as well. Students from Reading School always go to other schools, even primary schools, and do voluntary work. Reading School is a grammar school, you need some of them in every area.

S's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 10:56

So being sent off to Thailand and being cooked in a curry isn't racist then? Makes perfect sense. Thanks

H's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 12:59

Fiona- you sound like a broken record; there are plenty of well formulated arguments which directly dissolve the point you make, and numerous times!

Andrew Coombes's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 16:18

You seem to have misunderstood the entrance examination process at Reading School. It has nothing to do with location, and all to do with how the pupils fare in the series of demanding tests they undergo, as alluded to by Joe Greenwood (http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/05/local-parents-protest-against-the-unfairness-of-grammar-schools-in-berkshire-and-might-force-them-to-become-non-selective/#comment-6429). There is at no point any consideration of a pupil's suitability for the school, based upon where they live or how much money their parents earn.

Matt Albin's picture
Sun, 29/05/2011 - 19:17

I consider the use of the phrase 'social apartheid' in this particular debate an INCREDIBLY abusive comment. Shame on you for believing this acceptable in ANY way, shame on you Fiona.

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

Tushar, why you so generous?

Hursty The History Tiger's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:37

"If you win the lottery, the first thing I want you to get me is a face lift and a boob job," said my 49 year old girlfriend as I was checking my ticket. "Well, actually, the first thing I would buy is a reconditioned engine and a respray for my Mondeo," I replied.
"Why would you waste your money tarting that old thing up, you might as well get yourself a new one," she said.
"My point exactly."
The same applies here.

JFBizzle's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:39

Quality Greg :)

Mike L's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 15:47

Personal comments are probably not the best to make here but I can't help seeing a correlation between that manipulation of words Greg T talks about and a certain Alistair Campbell (partner of Fiona Millar), spin doctor extraordinaire...

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:09

This is why grammar schools are not very good examples of local schools

Kushal's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:31

yeh and the illuminati were involved in this

Dave's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 21:35

I am not abusing you, you don't understand what is going on, typical grammar school boy to go and report me to a teacher.

F.Drew's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:15

Obviously as soon as the majority of the school pupils find out about this thread there are going to be some very strong opinions from people whose lives revolve around the school which they love.

MiKKel's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:15

What was your experience of the selective grammar school you attended in Kentish town?

2d's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:18

what about the grammar school you attended?

Jamie's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 21:40

In fact you are abusing us. Even in this same post you stereotype us.

James's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 21:54

Of course. How foolish I have been. I just simply don't understand what's going on. My poor little childish mind was simply unable to grasp the concepts of the school I have gone to for 6 years. I see now that you know best as you are an adult and you are so much cleverer than lil ole me. In fact, against all the arguments that we thought were so well presented we were unable to see we have a lower than average FSM and my parents are secretly millionaires and the house I live in is merely th servant quarters of the manor and the bike I have to ride to school cos i can't afford a car and the buses are overly priced is actually a beemer.
I humbly thank you.

S's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 10:46

how would you even know what a 'typical grammar school boy' even is!?

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

It is now an extremely successful comprehensive school with the support of many local parents.

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:22

I enjoyed my school but am pleased that it is now an oversubscribed, successful comprehensive that delivers an equally high standard of education and is full of young women with a strong sense of social justice.

Sophie F's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 16:38

Sorry but how do you think you know the slightest thing about our schools when actually you haven't even got a kid in there and yes maybe your kid is more clever than other kids in their class but that doesn't mean that they are more clever than all of the other people applying for kendrick or reading.
you have no idea what theses schools are really like so stop telling us what you think and start concentrating on your child's education!

2d's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:20

what about the selective university you went to?

Mammoth's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:51

If your school now forms its intake based purely on catchment area, does that not mean it has lowered social mobility in the local area? Houses in the catchment area must be considerably more expensive than outside.

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

so it's changed from selecting clever kids to selecting women? How is that fair? You argue against selective schools but support single sex schools!? If someone living in the catchment area really wants to get into reading they can print off some practise papers and work really hard- it's possible. If you wanted to get into the school you went to but were a boy, you couldnt do a thing... double values?

Luke Barratt's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 21:28

Well I'm glad about that, but it shouldn't draw you to the biased conclusion that Reading School needs to be one of those as well. People who have been to comprehensives and Reading School all agree: Reading School is the best environment for people who are of high intelligence, where they are surrounded by others of similar ability.

Ben Doyle's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 06:54

A sweeping, positively spun outlook on the school I'm sure. Whilst I hope that this is true in a majority of cases at the school, I'm sure it is not the rule. No school is perfect. So why when we too try to look at RS as a whole and the positives that ensues are we ignored or manipulated into sounding like bad, snotty kids? A majority of people are perhaps not using the right "PC" language simply because you are talking to school kids, it does not mean when they say, "less-bright children" or "RS is for intelligent people" that they think all other children who didn't get in are idiots and stupid. They are just making the justified point that RS and Kendrick caters for the top 5% or so of school children, which no other comp does effectively in the Reading area.
If you are allowed to make sweeping judgements to focusing on the positives, then why should we not too be able to?

BULLSHIT's picture
Sat, 28/05/2011 - 16:07

How do you know it delivers an equally good education? And by the way since the abolition of the country wide 11+ exam, grammar schools have changed beyond what your tiny mind can comprehend!!!!!!

You choose to go for the school. You don't have to take the test. Rejection is only going to happen if you drive a mile or so and go into the exam hall!

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:24

It wasn't very selective back then ( we are talking about almost 40 years ago)

whataloadofrubbish's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:32

Fiona, may I ask your response to the fact that, I believe, your data on less people ‘eligible’ to receive free meals go to grammar schools, specifically Reading School and Kendrick is bias.

The statistics show that less people receive free meals, but not that less people are eligible. The lack of cafeteria/canteen at Reading School means that people who are indeed eligible, won’t apply due to the lack of cafeteria/canteen, and so your statement that less people are eligible for free meals at grammar schools is completely unfounded.

What is your response to this?

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:37

It is a fact that across the country the number of pupils eligible for FSM is about 0.5%. The national average is around 18%. In many inner city schools like the one my daughter attends, it is over 40%, which illustrates Francis' point about social apartheid.
I am sorry Reading School doesn't have a canteen but many other grammar schools do , and that doesn't seem to have made much difference to the constitution of their intakes.

whataloadofrubbish's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:44

well I suggest that you retract your previous statement that Reading School has less students 'eligible' for FSM than other comps around the area. Reading as a whole is likely to have a percentage lower than the national average.

If you were to investigate statistics such as who receives EMA the differnce between Reading School and local comprehensives such as Maiden Erleigh will not be so different, do you not agree?

Jamie's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:50

I assume that in your first sentence you are referring to grammar schools only? Also, apartheid was a violent, repressive regime and I think it lowers the tone of the argument to use such blatant hyperbole quite so freely. Okay, so less students in grammar schools come in on FSM. Why is this? In the case of Reading a viable reason has been offered in the lack of a canteen or refectory. In other schools, perhaps they have this, but these schools still select based ONLY on their entrance exams and (large) cachement areas. How to change this? Yes, you could make all grammar schools comprehensive but this would lower the quality of intake and they would become "just another comprehensive school". A good comprehensive, perhaps, but still lowering the average grade, and creating no more places for the people who want to send their pupils to a good school. It would also cost a large amount to convert all these schools into comprehensives with the ability to support lower-achieving pupils, money which perhaps could be better spent on schools specialising in helping these pupils reach their full potential. Now I recognise that this is not a perfect solution, but I am not a politician with years of experience in policymaking and budgeting, but I strongly feel it is more of a step in the right direction than destroying the fine establishment of Reading School to replace it with a comprehensive.


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