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PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 5:15 pm 
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I am really taken by a couple of recent subjects raised on one of the forums recently.

The first was about admission criteria at two girls' grammars in Sutton (Nonsuch and Wallington Girls), where the locals wanted the schools for themselves (i.e. with places allocated to locals) and the non-locals (and the schools themselves) argued for no catchment area or less places allocated to locals.

The second is about the increasing presence of ethnic minorities at the state selective schools, something I have noticed in my son's grammar while other parents complained about a school (Nonsuch again) not being representative of the local community.

What the two subjects have in common is that selection at grammar schools can have undesired consequences for some parents. I.e. selection is good, provided I get a place at 'my' school.

I would really like to hear opinions about the pros and cons of grammar schools.

What are they good for?
Are you in favour of selection?
What about selection and catchment areas?
Can we blame minorities for trying harder?
Wouldn't it be better to do away with selection? (bit of a leading question)

any takers?

PS
the title is only for provocation, lets not argue about it :wink:


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 8:17 pm 
When I was looking into CRGS I noticed that the Head was on a PR trip to China to encourage sixth form boys to board at the school. I felt this was an outrageous use of taxpayers money and that he should have been reaching out to the local community or within Britain. After all the state would still be paying for non-EU's school tuition. :evil:


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 11:17 pm 
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There is a big difference between the few areas where the whole state sector is two tier (Bucks and Kent being the only two full-sized counties like that, I think) and other areas where there are just a few grammars for a huge number of potential applicants.

You can't really have a single debate about both types as the circumstances and consequences are so different.

In two tier areas, ~25% of all children get into grammar and in Bucks the default is that all children sit 11+ unless they actively withdraw from it. And every child, however poor their parents and postcode is in the catchment for at least one grammar. Not a perfect system, but overall, a good one, I think.

On the other had, areas where grammars are few and far between, only a small proportion apply, an even smaller proportion get in and these are likely to lead to greater social selectivity. Personally, I think that's a pretty bady system (though if I lived in such an aread I would do all I could to ensure my DC got into the schools I thought right for them, no matter what).


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 12:46 pm 
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thanks Zee

that difference escaped me
and also that explains why the grammars in surrey and kingston do so well in the leagues (they have got a bigger pool to chose from)

I agree with you on the last paragraph, I don't like the system, I think it is divisive for society, still as parent I have to give it a go, good for who gets it, shame if you don't

unsure if the Bucks and Kent way is better, though, maybe in practice is a bit better, but in principle is similar

wouldn't the same purpose be fulfilled with streaming within schools, rather then between schools?
it makes mobility easier and it is less elitist

G


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 1:51 pm 
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Giulio wrote:
that difference escaped me and also that explains why the grammars in surrey and kingston do so well in the leagues

Yes, although the best grammars in Bucks and Kent are very close, despite having a wider ability range! Anyway, different league tables rank by different criteria and so in a different order.

Giulio wrote:
unsure if the Bucks and Kent way is better, though, maybe in practice is a bit better, but in principle is similar

No, not at all similar. It Bucks/Kent EVERYONE has a chance and there are more places.

Giulio wrote:
wouldn't the same purpose be fulfilled with streaming within schools, rather then between schools?it makes mobility easier and it is less elitist

Some people think streaming is a good proxy for grammars, but I don't. In a fully selective system, grammars can concentrate on an unashamedly academic environment where it is cool to be clever, and the other schools can concentrate on offering a broader range of subjects and learning support for children whose talents are not as academic. It can and should be possible for a few children to swap from one to the other if necessary.

The government currently promotes all schools to have specialisms. The only specialism they don't like is the one that is most beneficial for society: specialism according to academic ability!


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 3:24 pm 
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Yes the government promotes specialism, but most comprehensive schools don't select any pupils based on their ability in that specialist subject, so what's the point? How does this help a child gifted in maths or science if their local school specialises in music or sport?

(Sorry had to get my twopenny worth in on that point. :roll: :oops:)


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 11:23 pm 
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zee, seems a resonable point the one of academic specialism

I think that falls down considering that it is not really a specialism

I understand specialism about subjects
but from what I have seen so far all schools, grammars and not, they all do pretty much the same subjects until GCSE
for all the talk about choice, the schools here look all the same, unlike in continental Europe,
what parents/kids really choose is based on location/religion/reputation/facilities, trying to avoid the rough ones
there is no much choise based on subjects

academic ability is not a specialisation
surely some children do better at school then others, and they benefit from a faster teaching pace and maybe more content, but I don't see how this can justify, to say, dedicated teachers or dedicated institutions
why can't they receive faster teaching and so on within a non selective institution

to say that grammar schools can concentrate in "clever is cool", not be ashmed of being academic, simply hides the fact they are better of the other schools, the ones were being clever is not cool and it is shameful to be academic (twisting your words here)

but the thing is that grammar schools are better because they select and the others are worse off because they can't

this is no good for society


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 11:30 pm 
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Giulio wrote:
to say that grammar schools can concentrate in "clever is cool", not be ashmed of being academic, simply hides the fact they are better of the other schools, the ones were being clever is not cool and it is shameful to be academic (twisting your words here)


Don't understimate the importance of school culture to a slightly shy, and very academically gifted child. The idea that the bright will do well wherever they are does not apply to all such children.

Yes, grammars are more academic, but we need people with other skills too, the sort of subjects my elder DC would hate to do. That's not about better, but different.

Giulio wrote:
but the thing is that grammar schools are better because they select and the others are worse off because they can't
this is no good for society


They're better in terms of A levels, but only "better" in a braoder sense because the non-grammars are sometimes not good enough and because there is often a stigma attatched to being weaker in traditional academic subjects.

In Scandinavian countries, they have academic schools (like grammars) and more vocational ones, but there isn't a selection test: it's up to parents and schools to pick which is most suitable for each child, and because there isn't a cultural stigma against the vocational schools, there's no shame in picking them. Perfect system. But how we'd get from where we are to that, I can't begin to imagine.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 12, 2009 12:42 pm 
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Just1-2go wrote:
Yes the government promotes specialism, but most comprehensive schools don't select any pupils based on their ability in that specialist subject, so what's the point? How does this help a child gifted in maths or science if their local school specialises in music or sport?

(Sorry had to get my twopenny worth in on that point. :roll: :oops:)

I agree entirely with this comment. Our preferred Upper school (had DS not passed 11+) has a Maths and Science/Technology specialty which we felt would suit him perfectly. However, we are outside catchment and in reality would have been unlikely to get a place. I was also told that ability in Maths and Science would not carry any particular weight at an appeal. Our catchment Upper school on the other hand has a Performing Arts specialism and fantastic facilities to support this specialism - but definitely not DS's cup of tea. The specialism means more money for the school but if your catchment school isn't a specialist school for your subject then it doesn't matter how much money is available.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 12, 2009 1:55 pm 
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andyb wrote:
Just1-2go wrote:
Yes the government promotes specialism, but most comprehensive schools don't select any pupils based on their ability in that specialist subject, so what's the point? How does this help a child gifted in maths or science if their local school specialises in music or sport?

I agree entirely with this comment.

Locally to us there is a sports college that takes 25 a year on sporting ability.There is a school taking a similar number on performing Arts ability another fairly local selects for gifting in science, another languauges and so on.
These are comps that just select small amount that reflect their specialism. Some would say this is taking places from the locals but then, of course, they are welcome to apply to schools with other specialisms too.
I think more and more schools will do this and I feel that makes specialist schools make more sense.


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