Friday 9 September 2016

Grammar Schools - why now?

It is weird that Prime Minister May has kicked off with Grammar schools as her first non-Brexit policy.

Hinkley and Heathrow are there (although both very hard).

Education has been slowly improving and there is already as dispute with the Doctors so winding up teachers is going to double trouble.

And for what? Grammar certainly helps a few but it also causes problems too as the other schools are filled with lower attainment kids. What about streaming in schools as a non-selective way of doing it?

Grammars' are not in the Manifesto from the last election, so the House of Lords will vote it down anyway.

It must be something she has held dear to her for life which she now wants to offer to all; a crusade if you like. Sadly it comes too with a notion of 100% religious schools which I am dead against as these are divisive to the country and we have enough religion as it is, particularly as we will have hard line Muslim schools now allowed - just what the Country needs.

I guess it will be wildly popular mind, so perhaps that is the simple answer after all.


hovis said...

"What about streaming in schools as a non-selective way of doing it?"

Thats what my Comp had - lowest common denominator wins out not the highest, so Grammar schools [hopefully] will have a better focus. Now you could argue that the Blairite Academy system is selection by any other means, so yes why such a totemic decision - to keep middle englad on board fior some other stitch up perhaps?

Fortunatley or unfortunately the word "Grammar School" is totemic so agree that perhaps calling them 'New Comprehensives by Selection" might work too.
But to many on the left there is Pavolovian reaction. I always found it ironic that the great socialist levellers destroyed the one mechanism that was equalising society in opportunity and destroying the Public school system who killed it. You could always in mitigation say that Crossland et al were of course Public Schoolboys looking after their own, though that's too conspiracy theory for my liking.

The problem with the 1944 Butler Act and Tripartite education wasnt slectin but that the other two legs of the triad were dismissed and derided as useless - if I remember rightly Germany had technical schools which served them well - they never really got off the ground here.

Then there is the problem the system after the 1944 Act existed in a time of full employment, whereas now what are you going to do with those not making the grade at that point in their short lives? (I am making no judgement here on validity of that, it5 is an observation).

andrew said...

not sure

From a certain pov you can trace the decline of the labour party back to the point where Thatcher introduced the right to buy.
Before then, all the (mostly lab) council house tenants had an interest in voting lab, no longer.

It may be that May thinks that if you give state school parents a reason - like making grammars open to ~50% of pupils then that will be a similar nudge away from voting lab (who would abolish grammars)

At the least, if the policy is made sufficiently inclusive it will mark Lab as anti child / education / family / self improvement.

No comment on whether grammars are
(a) good for children
(b) good for the UK as a whole

Two things occur
- effectively we already have a grammar school system but the selection system is currently house prices
- from the pov of the british state (or rather a capitalist state) we want to concentrate money where it will yield the best return.
This used to be the comp/grammar/university system.
From a purely personal pov I see that there seems to be an increasing focus on 'stars' in business/sport/media as the cost of replication/communication has changed and so perhaps it is right we concentrate money on likely winners - like the british olympic team is funded.

Anonymous said...

I still don't get May - she's like a complete dichotomy.

She either says something that I totally agree with (Brexit should mean brexit) or something that I totally disagree with, like her words on Feminism and the gender pay gap.

Maybe she's got some kind of split personality disorder (or maybe that's me)....

Steven_L said...

Dog whistle - get the UKIP voters back onside.

Dan said...

A better way to look at this is sociologically. There are two things actually going on here.

Firstly, there is the business of educating children. Once older than toddlers, children tend to base their self-image much more on their peer group than on their parents' wishes or desires. Grammar school selection is a way of artificially selecting a child's peer group, by harnessing the inherent tribalism of children (and indeed adults) everywhere. Take the smartest kids, and give them a very different uniform to the less-able ones and you create a tribe of intelligent kids, who only socialise with other intelligent kids and who derive their values from this grouping.

That's partly why grammar schools work; the kids all share values and are all hooked on the concept of "smart is better".

This isn't why our PM is doing this, thought. She's doing it because the core Tory voters are older and have an idealised image of an old-time Britain that never really existed, a time when everyone knew their place and when grammar schooling was where most of the right sort of people went.

This is a Tory virtue-signalling to other Tories, nothing more. That it will improve educational performance is by the by, it isn't aimed at children.

Anonymous said...

Bitterly disappointed with the religious schools, kids need to be educated not indoctrinated into Bronze Age level fuckwittery. Bits of Ireland are about three pints away from ISIS level stupidity because of Christian sectarianism, and it wasn't even three decades ago frothing godbotherers were able to get with all kinds of mental and physical abuse at schools. Do we really need to repeat those lessons, only this time with an even more backwards bunch than the Catholics?

As for expanding Grammar Schools, they'll help a little, but having spoken to teachers who've worked here and abroad, it's plain that neither the politicians nor the The Blob have the vaguest clue how to, or actual interest in, improving the system rather keep failing kids.

As with most modern political decisions, lets just keep putting off doing anything fundamental to improve matters until the UK has dropped so far down the rankings we're shamed into doing something actionable, albeit that action being to blame the previous government and toss money at the problem in the hope it'll go away.

Lord Blagger said...

Comprehensive schools stream. What's the issue?

My take is this.

If you have a large school, comprehensive plus streaming make sense.

If you have several small schools, far better to have selection into the school.

If you have small schools with big distances between then, then you have no choice, its comprehensives only.

Perhaps where you have selection between schools, you should include the ability to transfer at 14 and 16.

Lord Blagger said...

For Dan.

You have to ask why teachers, bastions of the left, are so anti public schools.

Largely its because they want to remove the competition, and any form of comparison with their output.

Anonymous said...

To paraphrase an elite Rhodes scholar - "It's the economy, stupid".

Grammar, selective, private, faith etc are all better funded by various mechanisms and their internal economics don't have the dead hand of layers of well-meaning(?) bureaucrats interfering and lurching from one policy to another.

If you want your children to have a decent education, check to see how many policy wonks, special advisors, intervention teams, social workers etc are in the system and go in the opposite direction.

Quote from my sister, an OFSTED inspector who has just retired on a very nice index-linked pension.

Electro-Kevin said...
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Electro-Kevin said...

This is the school I went to. It used to be called Eastfields High School for boys.

You'll see that St Mark's Acadamy is now mixed and has a resident policeman. It needed one when I went there ! I vowed that my kids would never go to anywhere like it and got them into grammar. We did not have the buying power to get into the vicinity of a good non-selective school so tutoring for the '11 plus' it was (Mrs E-K helped fund it by invigilating at the many weekend mock exams so one of our lads got it free.)

Grammar schools are excellent at maximising a student's potential with the right raw material.

The likes of Eastfields were excellent at equalising everyone with those of the wrong raw material.

Why now ? To satisfy the Brexit wing of Chairman May's party - the likes of Graham Brady who used to go to my boy's school and is a strong defender of the grammar system.

As it happens I don't think more grammars are the solution.

Comps need to get good at:

- ditching lefty teachers
- streaming kids by academic ability and (above all)
- segregating disruptive pupils (and particularly their parents) from the system as soon as possible, perhaps an annex to the school with sub-head - peferably a hard-as-nails retired NCO type with a war record.

BTW. It is a lie that kids are denied a grammar school place from 11. Many newcomers joined at the beginning of each term - particularly sixth form. If you didn't turn in good results you were kicked out and someone brought in to take your place. This put the fear of god into S&J and the major influence was not parent pressure but peer pressure.

Generally the best looking kids determine which direction a school will take. If the best looking kids are hip-hopsters then hip-hop is what you will get throughout. The good looking kids at my boy's school were academics - so they're the ones everyone aspired to.

Good looking people set the fashion - even locally.

It's no coincidence that these people seem to have everything.

Electro-Kevin said...
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Electro-Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Electro-Kevin said...

Anon 3.25 - Our grammar was actually less well funded than the local comp in terms of facilities and infrastructure. It's the exclusion of unsupportive parents that made it work and the attraction of a high number of professors and doctors who wanted to teach receptive and fast learning pupils without being treated disrespectfully in class.

Electro-Kevin said...

Anon at 2.08

One twin did the International Baccalaureate, the other A levels.

The IB was far more intensive and the difference between the two lads work loads utterly staggering.

Of the 7 IB students all got to med school. None of the A level applicants did.

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BlokeInBrum said...

If I may stick my oar in and give my ha'pennies worth;
My eldest goes to one of the new Free Schools recently set up by the Perry Beeches Academy Trust.
You know, the one in the news after the Head, Liam Nolan was caught out indulging in, ahem, financial jiggery pokery.
My experience of the school was, and is largely positive. Being as it is, in central Birmingham, the intake of pupils consists largely of people of diverse backgrounds ( ie foreign ), not necessarily native english speakers, and of different cultural backgrounds. The biggest hurdle such a school, any school has is instilling a suitable learning ethos in the pupils , and by osmosis, their parents. Instilling this esprit de corps, this culture of learning is vital before you even start teaching. Selective schooling is simply a shortcut to create a cadre of pupils of similar motivational intents.
The second noticable point that I found, was the intense focus on measuring performance, not only of the pupils, but of the teachers too. Teachers that were not making the cut , performance wise, were given every assitance to improve, those that didn't were replaced. This may help to explain partly, the vitriol against Free Schools from the NUTters.
Streaming is also used to make sure that pupils learn within a tight group of similar abilities, and always with the expectation and gentle pressure to move up groups.
My daughter was due to start doing the IB, but after Nolans financial shenanigans and the disruption caused thereof, she is now doing A levels to my disappoinment. Perry Beeches genuine acheivements in academic attainment, spoiled by being greedy, thanks Liam...

BlokeInBrum said...

Further to my comment, it seems to me that Mrs. May is also trying to instill a certain guiding ethos into the government benches, that of 'Aspiration'.
She seems to be going back to the whole idea of meritocracy, fairness and aspiring to better yourself. All traditional Conservative Values, recalling a certain female Prime Minister of yore.
Certinly beats Hugging a Husky!
All the while the Labour party seems intent on exploring the values of cheap rent boys and poppers, sidling up to Hamas and various anti-Semites ( sorry, Zionists) and engaging in fratricide. We truly have gone through the looking glass and are in a whole new world!

Thud said...

I don't see why more Grammar schools and better comps are not both possible.I went to a grammar (De La sale St Helens) as a very working class scouser and mixed with mainly other working class kids ( plenty of miners sons)I loved the place and I only wish the young of my even more deprived than ever home town of Huyton still had the chance I had.

Anonymous said...

Looks like May has lost it already. Grammar schools moving up the agenda in time for conference season. Will get a full airing over the next 6 weeks.

Fox claiming Britain is lazy. If only we weren't he would be able to get those trade deals. (Heard this so many times from incompetent salesmen so he'll be out soon)

Then coming up on the horizon will be the annual NHS winter beds crisis. Hunt being his usual useless self. He's a proto-Gove wedded to ideology rather than performance.

General Election in Spring then once the damage has been done - by her own team.

As they say, it's hers to lose - against Corbyn of all people.

hatfield girl said...

'Grammar schools' doesn't really cover what the discussion is about. It is a handy label for selective schools but refers to very different situations.
A state school with selection by academic aptitude at a particular age - say 11 - is not a grammar school in many ways. It is the top streams of a comprehensive in a separate building, often with more funding per head.

When children sat 'the scholarship' rather than the 'eleven-plus' thay competed for county funding to take a fee-paying place in fee-paying schools with an academic intake as varied as any comprehensive. The difference was these were the children of the well to do; scholarship children were there on the strength of their intellect, while others were there on the strength of their parents' fee-paying capacity: the 'Slough Comprehensive' model, so to speak.

What is unacceptable is state schools admitting by brain-power. Pay nothing? All can come who meet catchment criteria. Pay? Up to the school to choose. But a non-feepaying selective state school is not a grammar school.
To solve the problem of rationing by house-price for selective state schools move the catchment area point (or points) away from the school gates and fix it (them) by social choices that include deprived areas, 'good' areas, and rural/urban environments.
At the same time, reinstate the use of county scholarships for the best and brightest, regardless of income, to enter fee-paying schools. In truth, it wasn't that all pupils were particularly bright in schools partaking in the county scholarship regime - indeed it was the fee-paying, comprehensive, intake, in intellectual terms, that contributed to the success of scholarship children in making contacts, understandings, aspirations, that made the 'scholarship' such a desirable prize.
The term 'grammar schools' hides a profound difference between state-funded selective schools and the opening of the entire educational system to clever but poor children.

Electro-Kevin said...

I feel that the grammar school issue is a battle to convince Brexiters that there IS a battle. (That the Conservatives are Conservative)

May intends to take on The Blob and every union ... except the European Union !

Now I'm not defending unions but there is a reason why broadly conservative people - the doctors, the police and (yes) the newly recruited Royal Marines, RAF engineers, police officers and accountants to the privatised railways are allowing the militants to take the lead - inflated house prices are at the nub of it all. (They make even excessive wages seem small.)

Stating that all schools can be selective clearly means that none of them will be. It is all for effect and a sop to disappointed Brexiters.

Very very Blairist.

Electro-Kevin said...

HG - I answered at 6.19 (having been through the whole thing recently) that kids are not excluded by grammars at aged 11.

Nor 12, nor 13, nor 14 ...

James Higham said...

Hopefully, Heathrow is next cab off the rank.

Unknown said...

kinda great one post about grammars of the schools .