Why grammar schools failed

Head of Ofsted has his Mandy Rice-Davies moment. Many readers, of course, are unimpressed:

1.  The flaw in the Wilshaw argument is clearly seen in his own words quote, – It can work, if schools have great leadership it can work.’ So it could, perhaps work but it is dependent on leadership, I think in addition much has to do with the product you have to work with, and their parents. Our son qualified to go to the Gymnasium the equivalent here of the old Grammar School.

His observations after his first year speak volumes, he said it is nice to be in a classroom where the pupils want to learn. Wise words from a 12 year old, and no he isn¿t a swat. It is not just necessary for the School to have leadership, the parents have to have input and far too many frankly do not make a sufficient effort. Getting into the higher school boosts confidence and gives the important sense of achievement and once it is there so is the desire to continue to succeed.

2.  While grammar schools were popular with those parents whose children succeeded in entry to them, the system was not popular with those whose children had failed the eleven-plus. A policy that was disliked by three in four voters was clearly not a clever electoral strategy. Simon Jenkins recalled the climate at the time: Fact: The grammar school system was actually very unpopular in its heyday, which was why both parties were happy to see it changed.

Myth 3: Grammar schools in the 50s and 60s were a path to success for the poor In the grammar school period, while 33% of those whose father’s profession was “higher professional” got onto a degree course at university, only 2% of those from a skilled manual background did so and just 1% of those from a semi-skilled or unskilled background. (Robbins Report)

3.  The grammar schools now are different to previous ones. Tutors are needed to pass the 11+ as most primary schools do not cover the topics needed to pass it. Only rich middle class can pay these tutor fees (up to £50 per hour in some areas). Also, comprehensive schools are changing. Not all are the same. There are an increasing number of outstanding schools and some are outperforming some private and some grammar schools too. There are many pupils who leave grammars who don’t get the best results and many pupils who leave comprehensives, who do. Schools are evolving.

4.  Bright and well-motivated children, with good parental support, will undoubtedly thrive in a Grammar School, particularly when effective selection, such as the “Eleven Plus” examination, has weeded-out the ignorant and disruptive oiks. This Ofsted guy is talking a complete load of rubbish! Britain desperately needs more grammar schools.

5.  Not saying grammars are good or bad, you decide, what I will say is, never forget that the drive to abolish grammars was extremely popular amongst conservative voting parents terrified at the realisation their children were average and might have ended up in a secondary modern. I speak as someone whose education was wrecked by going to a formerly renowned grammar which went comprehensive and opened up to a completely headbanger catchment area with inevitable results.

6.  Quite right! While grammar schools were popular with those parents whose children succeeded in entry to them, the system was not popular with those whose children had failed the eleven-plus. A policy that was disliked by three in four voters was clearly not a clever electoral strategy.

Simon Jenkins recalled the climate at the time:

At political meetings at the end of the 1960s, Edward Boyle [Minster of Education from 1962 to 1964] was torn limb from limb by conservative voters, infuriated that their children who had ¿failed¿ the eleven-plus were being sent to secondary moderns, along with 70-80% of each age group. They had regarded the grammars as ¿their schools¿. The eleven-plus, they said, lost them the 1964 election and would lose them every one until it was abolished. Margaret Thatcher recognised this as has every Tory party in practice ever since.

Hitchens, P:

Those who write in here ( as many do, often) to say that selective education didn’t benefit the real poor will have a problem with this case. And they will also struggle with the account of the school in the biography of Alan Rickman by my one-time colleague Maureen Paton, (http://www.amazon.com/Alan-Rickman-The-Unauthorized-Biography/dp/1852276304

Which says that 80% of the boys were from poor homes, and that the school had the social mix of a comprehensive (plus the educational power of a good private school, surely the ideal combination) .

We won’t return to this as long as so many informed people never even knew that such a system existed, worked and produced people such as Alan Rickman.

Grammar school failure?

When the dust has settled and mums have told their tales of their child crying himself to sleep at night because he didn’t get to a grammar school or failed the 11+, what it comes down to, IMHO, is either a leftist viewpoint which fears competition coz someone else’s kids might get ahead of hers … or the rightist viewpoint that it’s competition which hones the edge of a society, that the great eras of societies coincide with when there was healthy competition and where people learnt that they can’t dominate some things – women and minorities please note and white males please note in the sporting field, vis-a-vis blacks.

Labour, which stopped grammar schools with the collusion of the Pink Tories, is of that leftist world culture position. Both have failed the bright poor.

8 comments for “Why grammar schools failed

  1. john in cheshire
    January 31, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    I went to a Grammar School and believe after all these years that it’s the best alternative to a fee-paying school, to such a degree that I made sure my youngest nephew went to one, after seeing what comprehensive education had achieved for his older brothers.

    • January 31, 2016 at 5:14 pm

      Choice for parents to apply and entrance standards for those applying – that’s what it takes. But the pollies have to interfere.

  2. Hereward Unbowed.
    January 31, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Why did Crosland interfere and then f**k a system which plainly worked?

    Because he was a;

    A. a fucking idiot,
    B. a fucking idiot and a Socialist,
    C. both of the above but more importantly – also despised Britain and the British people.
    D. a member of the scum party.

    The scum party does not change, only the faces change and aided and abetted by their affiliates – the tory boys, Corbyn and Dave are peas in a RED pod.

    • jrh
      February 1, 2016 at 12:05 pm

      An alternative perspective might be that he was a public school educated elitist (i.e.socialist: despite what they profess what do their actions produce?) who knew that the public school system would collapse long term if grammars continued their existence. In other words Cui Bono?

  3. Henry Kaye
    January 31, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    It is my opinion that those who have actually had experience of a Grammar School are the only ones who have a valid opinion of their importance. Those involved in the eventual closures, as well as their uninformed supporters, were, in my opinion basing their decisions on inaccurate data.
    I attended a Grammar school from 1942 to 1946 and can report that there was definitely no evidence of class distinction; all were from working class and middle class backgrounds. My own father was a barber, a friend’s parent was a dustman and another a “Parkie” if that word means anything today. All the students were well behaved and attentive.

  4. Voice of Reason
    January 31, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    I was fortunate enough to go to grammar school, and get the jump start to university. I was also able to complete my degree at no cost to me.

    I have been watching from the US with great sadness as the UK took apart the phenomenal education system that it had, and copied the one here.

    Is is more cruel to not admit students, or to admit them, saddle them with a lot of debt, and either flunk them out, or let them leave with an inferior education?

  5. February 1, 2016 at 2:08 am

    It needs to return. There is one other way – state primary then independent, as I did but that puts parents into penury unless the boy gets a scholarship.

    • Mudplugger
      February 1, 2016 at 8:52 am

      The old ‘Direct Grant’ system offered a better approach and for more kids – state primary, then independent secondary schooling for those passing an entrance exam, but with the fees state-subsidised on a sliding-scale (down to zero) for families on low incomes.
      That method offered the opportunity of a top quality education to bright kids who had the misfortune to be born into poor financial circumstances, but with parents smart enough to recognise the future benefit.
      I was that kid.

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