Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 07 Jun 2007

As a lifelong Tory I donít get it. Why turn away from grammar schools? They work.

Hillary's Advice

Do they? Or do they only work for the minority of students who go to them?

Grammar school supporters like to argue that children do better in selective systems than in comprehensive ones and get, on average, more GCSEs. But this is not true for all pupils. Grammar school students might do quite significantly better than their comprehensive counterparts, but secondary modern ones do worse.

There is also evidence that, despite their good results, grammar schools are not doing as well as they could with their bright intakes Ė that their results could actually be higher. Other kinds of schools now seem to do much better when it comes to buffing up their pupilsí abilities, boosting their achievements and spitting them out at the other end with significantly better results than they were predicted to get when they first arrived.

Interestingly, in areas where grammar schools exist, there are always ardent supporters clamouring to retain them and not that much interest by anyone else in forcing them off the educational map, but in areas where they have been abandoned parents are adamant they wonít return to selection. Maybe, when it comes to schools, we all just prefer the devil we know.

But crudely chopping children into sheep and goats at 11 can never be a logical way to run a school system, especially given what we now know about the outdated notion of limited potential, the many different ways in which intelligence can manifest itself, and the ability of everyone to carry on making progress when given encouragement to do so.