My oldest son didn't get into grammar and is attending the local comp. This comp gets very high GCSE and A level results. But, he is coasting and his teachers also say this at parents' evening. However, there doesn't seem to be any encouragement to get him to put more effort in, even though they say with a little more effort he will do better. He's in the gifted and talented and a member of NAGTY, but these seem devalued by the fact that he can achieve so much for so little effort. If he was in grammar school, he would have to work much harder and the sense of achievement would seem more worthwhile. But why should he bother if he can just coast through school and do the bare minimum to get his results?
Hi Catherine and Guests,
In answer to your question, Catherine, I think it's all hinges on how well the top of the ability range is catered for, as illustrated by the Guest above. Some excellent comprehensives do this very well, others don't (even though they might still have a "good" reputation!)
Just my take on things from observations gleaned first-hand over the past few years…
The teaching in a grammar school is pitched at a very high level, with the emphasis being on levelling up i.e. pulling up those who might be struggling. After all, if you have had to pass an exam to be there in the first place, then you should be able to hack it ... that's the theory, I suppose. (That said, the selection process means there will always be some who are there who should perhaps not be, and vice versa.) The high achievers in a comprehensive school should ideally also be taught at this level, but this is not always the case – e.g. if the school does not set according to ability until year 8 or even 9 for some subjects.
In an excellent comprehensive, not only will the high fliers be challenged to achieve their full potential, but this entire ethos of achievement will filter down to other sets so that academic success is seen as something to be celebrated - not necessarily for everyone, granted, but certainly not something to be dismissed as being only for "swots". This requires firm discipline so that those who are inspired to succeed are stretched to their full potential - whatever that may be - and those who do not wish to learn are not allowed to spoil it for the rest. This is where so many comprehensives seem to fail (even "good" ones) – with bad behaviour tolerated and expectations set too low. There are two comps in our area with a similar socio-economic intake, one that openly supports its gifted and talented pupils (G&T policy mentioned in school prospectus, runs its own summer schools etc.) and one that does not (or, at least, not until recently) and seems to have more discipline problems than the former. The former consistently gets better GCSE and A-level results than the latter and is always oversubscribed.
On the subject of G&T, I might be wrong but suspect that the budget for SEN in a grammar school is more likely to be targeted at gifted pupils, where there are always going to be fewer children with learning difficulties as normally defined by the authorities – i.e. struggling to keep up. For example, a very bright child with Aspergers, who is not achieving their full potential but still performing above average, might not be seen as having a problem in a comprehensive school but will get extra help in a grammar.
Feel free to disagree…