The End of Top Schools

Chris's picture
by Chris
Reading and Kendrick school, two top 10 schools, are in danger of being radically altered by a small group of disgruntled parents, who have been affected by changing catchment areas. These two schools that serve the brightest pupils from the Greater Reading Urban Area are being threatened with ending selection.

This proposal would end the possibility for pupils in Reading to experience top quality education, Reading School won the Times School of the Year 2010. Both are recognized as excelling academically. Also both schools run extensive community support schemes, over one hundred pupils are involved in such schemes throughout the year. These numbers are further bolstered by the running of Tag rugby festivals. Reading, in particular, is recognized by the Sutton Trust as having sent a large number of pupils to the top universities, 62% go to “Top Universities”. Reading school is recognised as a top institution for sending pupils to Oxbridge, 16% of pupils will mange this.

This is all done in sub-standard facilities. Previous administrations had barred the schools from applying for money to improve facilities, this means Reading school has a pool that regularly floods with chlorine, a gym that’s roof collapsed, a squash court that’s roof collapsed and no indoor dining facilities. It has to rely on other sources of income to get facilities built, as did Kendrick when they finally got their new 6th form centre built.

Rob Wilson, the local MP, said on the issue “Removing the grammar schools' ability to select their pupils would fundamentally change those schools. Rather than jeopardising the future of the outstanding schools, that we're lucky enough to have in our area, we should focus on the work of creating more good school places in Reading.” This reflects he feeling of the members of the school community, we feel that selection will ruin our schools unique nature, and therefore the results will slide.

Thank you for reading; hopefully we will be able to work together in saving these fabulous institutions for Reading.
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Dan's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:33

Here here!
It would be a dire mistake for Reading School and Kendrick to become non-selective. It would destroy the entire ethos of the schools and these good schools would decline and no longer provide the high level of education that so many parents seek.

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:37

The concept of social justice held by LSN means the best have to be retarded

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 16:08

You know that is incorrect. I have demonstrated by using data from a reputable source (OECD) with references time and time again. If you read the links I have given you will see the arguments (based on evidence) that OECD gives about the results of selection and how it makes no difference to the average educational score of a country but does impact badly on those who are disadvantaged. OECD does not suggest at any time that "the best have to be retarded" - its whole rationale is that all children should reach their full potential. And OECD has identified a country with a fully-comprehensive system as the best performing European country.

Person Who Talks's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 17:34

Well I guess those figures are just wrong then......

Charley's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 19:04

No, Person, don't be so stupid. But statistics can be used illustrate any point. In this situation what advantage is there to making these schools comprehensive. They cater for only c.800 students, and cannot be expanded due to site constraints. On the whole, Reading's state schools are undersubscribed, and this is only a betrayal of two school's heritage.

Chris's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 16:42

What sense can be seen in removing a proud institution, 800 years standing, that has produced consistently outstanding individuals. This school achieves because of what it is, and it is made what it is by the students that are naturally talented, and the teachers who have a passion for teaching.

This school is all about passion towards excellence- that can only be a good thing!

Sarah's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:10

It is debatable whether these are 'excellent schools' or simpley 'schools which select pupils who are able to attain excellent results'. If the latter, as I believe to be the case, there is good evidence to show that these pupils would have attained excellent results in whatever school they attended. To argue that removing selection would diminish the quality of these schools, as some opponents of this proposal have done, is actually to accept that argument - because it is saying that unless you don't cream off the most academically able the school's position in the league tables would fall (yes that's very likely), it would therefore cease to have the cachet with the privileged middle class families that currently frequent it (also likely) and the social balance in the school would become more equitable - which many including myself would consider desirable. It would also allow children who live close to the schools to have a much stronger chance of a place there.

On a separate point I'd be interested in how Reading School was 'banned' from receiving capital funding or receives lower funding in general and would be grateful if someone with local knowledge can explain that for me.

Chris's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:23

The truth is that they are both. It is, so to speak, the perfect balance between gifted pupils and talented teachers, as I pointed out in my above post.

These students will always be most likely to achieve they very best they can when under the carefully controlled environment Reading School offers. A good example is that the most able maths students are able to take Maths and Further Maths in the same "option block", so leave with 5 A levels rather than 4. This is simply not practical unless you have a system where able students are in an environment with like-minded peers. Its simply not true to say good students suceed where-ever- they need the right environment otherwise they are not pushed and end up slacking, or otherwise un-enthused.

Also, it is simply not true to assume that these are made up of middle class students. These are intelligent students, the vast majority have a natural talent, but of course there will be a small minority who have bought private tuition- but even that will not guarantee you a place.

It is my firm opinion that we should pursue meritocracy- and reward intelligence. This is the best way to do that. I dont want a system that discriminates on something as trivial as where you live!

There is no use in offering an exceptional education to those who cannot achieve exceptional things.

Charley's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 19:07

Oxford and Cambridge are excellent universities, because they are highly selective. The students feed of one another to excel. The same is true across the university system.

Location often reflects class, making this a system far more inclined to fill particular schools with priveleged middle class families. Any such bias in Reading and Kendrick only reflects aspirations towards a good education in such families, and I know plenty of people who are not middle class and attend the schools. By dissolving them, you would only turn more to the, surely less social fair, private sector.

Sarah's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:31

Where is your evidence to support such assertions? The evidence supports the opposite view. You only have to look to Finland which is at the top of the international league tables to see that a fully comprehensive system can be extremely successful.

I think you can make some assumptions about the socio economic class of the intake based on FSM entitlement - after all it's how the government intends to distribute funding for the pupil premium so they must believe it's a valid measure. And on the FSM data Reading School has a very low proportion of pupils eligible for FSM.

If intelligence is innate why should it be 'rewarded'. Surely what we should be rewarding are hard work, application and effort, none of which form part of the selection criteria for this school.

Whilst catchment areas have their drawbacks as we all know there are other systems available (fair banding, random allocation etc) which can overcome such factors to some extent.

There is every use offering an exceptional education to ALL and not just to the elite few who are able to pass tests as a result of privilege and genetics.

Chris's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:52

My evidence has been put forward already!

Reading School was this year voted the best state school in the country by the Sunday Times for GCSE and A level results. What is more, the nature of league tables is that they reward the "least bad grades" rather than the most "good grades". For instance, many schools could have less than 5% of GCSE grades below a C, but very few can say that they achieve over 70% A* or A grade. Is this sort of thing done by a fully comprehensive system? No, its a system that adresses the individual needs of pupils.

FSM is very dubious data. For starters, Reading School doesn't have adequate catering facilities. It seems clear to me, that such a factor would limit the amount of people who chose to take FSM. I have said this many times already on another thread, but will now say it again- the only way to truly guage the socio-economic background of a school is to have experienced it for 6 or so years- as I have. We are not all born with silver spoons protrouding out of every known orifice, as you seem to believe. Most of us belong to families with average incomes, living in averagely sized houses, with responsible, caring, but not lavishly rich parents.

Intellignece is innate, but it can only be fully capitalised on with the right nurture. Like I said, a perfect combination with nature.

And, It is most certainly not worth offering an exceptional education to everyone when exceptional teachers are so hard to come by! Pupil's who are not naturally gifted in, for instance, Maths, and don't even particularly enjoy it, needn't have exceptional teaching in it. Would you give meat to a vegetarian? No. Sometimes things are simply not compatible.

Each human is unique, with unique gifts and talents. A talented sportsman can achieve whatever school he goes to, a skilled artist will to, what about an inately gifted mathematicain who does not get the opportunity to shine?

Ollie Drew's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:57

FSM data is not a fair way of determining the 'wealth' of the students that attend the school. Firstly, Reading school currently has very limited accomodation for FSM, due to the fact the only food served on site is from a small 'tuck shop', so parents often feel it is a more sensible to use packed lunches, whether they benefit from FSM or not. A large number of students at the school are also eligible for EMA, the governments way of helping lower income households, which contradicts the idea that the students are privileged middle class.
Also, it is very wrong to say that people pass the tests due to privilege. The schools entrance is entirely dependent on intelligence and location, with no account for family wealth.
The school itself does a lot more than just gain 'quantifiable' results such as GCSEs, but teaches at a much higher level in order to set students up for their university years, giving them a much easier time than if they visited a comprehensive. This is not possible in comprehensive schools as the speed and level the class works at is limited to that of the students, but a gathering of the more able students would find it easier to teach a higher level. By taking away its grammar school status, you would not offer exceptional education to all, as the school would no doubt decrease in quality, merely take it away from those who deserve it, and furthermore destroy the most sensible option for encouraging social mobility.

Dan W's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 21:20

Where is your evidence to support yours?

Harry Gosling's picture
Sat, 28/05/2011 - 07:39

But I'm afraid that you are wrong Sarah. Yes, Finland operates a fully comprehensive system and that's very succesful. But firstly, we are talking here of making just two schools comprehensive. Secondly, one must remember that the country's heritage must be taken into account. Take America for example. There Obama wishes to introduce a healthcare system that is more similar to ours. However, it is very difficult to do this, because of the hundreds of years that have gone before. Countries adapt Sarah, and so I honestly do not believe that if the whole of Britain was to change to a fully comprehensive system, that it would produce better average results.

Person Who Talks's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 17:36

Ohh you just got "pwned" so to speak sarah.

An idea's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:16

If you listen to the interview with the headmaster of Reading School on BBC Radio Berkshire here:

I can not remember the time, I think it was around 20 minutes in?

Sarah's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 17:24

Any ballot on selection is actually loaded against parents whose primary aged children attend schools which have not previously sent children to the selective school in the past - because a primary school only becomes eligible as a feeder school if it has had five or more children transfer from there to the selective school. So a primary school, however close it might be to the selective school, where parents in the past have either not considered that school to be appropriate for their child, or where there have not been sufficient numbers of children passing the entrance test are precluded from voting in the ballot. This means that the outcome is loaded in favour of the status quo. Likewise if an Academy decides it wishes to remove selection of its own volition the only parents entitled to vote are those with children already attending - hardly likely to vote in favour of comprehensive education having selected a selective school for their child!

Andy Smithers's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:09

I think you can relax that these 2 excellent schools will remain as they are.
We have just had 13 years of a Labour Government and they were happy to leave the Grammer Schools alone - there focus was to give schools more autonomy and increase funding, teachers wages etc.
The Conservative led coalition also support keeping the Grammer schools and have accelerated the academy programme, together with a small number of free schools.

There will always be a minority who are against success, hard work, high achievement and aspiration.

Sarah's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 18:39

It's a complete misrepresentation to suggest that opposing selective education is anti success, hard work, high achievement or aspiration. All of those things can and do happen in comprehensive schools. Selective schools do not have a monopoly on success as the outcomes for comprehensive students at university testifies. They do not have a monopoly on hard work as the CVA scores of some comprehensives in very challenging areas demonstrates. They do not have a monopoly on either high achievement or aspirations. Whilst it is true that no major political party is proposing to abolish selective education, none are proposing to allow it to expand either so political support for it cannot be said to be overwhelming.

jim's picture
Tue, 04/10/2011 - 22:25

at last. an intelligent person with an open mind and a good heart.thank you sarah for all your comments in the face of this barrage of ignorant tory cliches

Tushar's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 19:03

Making the schools comprehensive will mean that:

Lesser ability students will enter the school (referred to as "S" for political correctness)
The curriculum's level will be lowered to allow for the S to keep up
The results will worsen as a result of S
The upper-ability ("C")'s results will fall as they are not interested anymore
Teachers begin to leave as their students are not as intellectual, and less C strive to get into these schools
The school's infrastructure (very, very, very poor at the moment) cannot help raise the attainment level of ANYONE
This leads to a knock-on effect, and the schools slides down the rank-table
The end results: a bog-standard school, with a mix of students based on ability. The teachers will not be of higher ability, the specialised departments will close (like latin, greek ad other academic subjects), the school will not be able to cope with the demand for non-academic subjects, and it will be an endless cycling culminating in:

The school being PATHETIC.

If the school closes down, who wins? No one.

All those in favour of non-selective schools haven't got a clue. They really don't.

Sarah's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 19:25

So... less able students will enter the school. Well, yes the school would have a full range of abilities. That's what comprehensive means.

Why should the curriculum be 'lowered' - good teachers can differentiate their teaching to address the needs of students with a range of abilities. I take it you believe your school has good teachers. Or the school could set or stream.

'The results will worsen' - the results will represent the range of abilities of all pupils in the school instead of just a small minority. And the results at other schools would be likely to improve for the same reason.

There is no evidence that upper ability C's would lose interest - even if this category of students and their teachers identify them as such.

Why should committed teachers leave a school with an intake that reflects the general population - good teachers should be able and willing to teach ALL children.

There is not very much evidence that the physical infrastructure of schools has a major effect on children's educational outcomes - that's why the government cancelled BSF.

Yes the school may not be so high in the league table - but they are only there in the first place because they have an unrepresentative intake of pupils - other schools may rise in the league tables for the same reason.

I reject the idea of a 'bog standard' school - I visit a lot of schools, they are all very different.

Surely we want teachers of high ability in all our schools not just those which cream off the academic minority of children?

There are plenty of excellent comprehensive schools which are far from closing down - what makes you believe this would happen to your school.

As for your last comment - I won't dignify that with a response.

Tushar's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 19:54

"So… less able students will enter the school. Well, yes the school would have a full range of abilities. That’s what comprehensive means." That was the premise. It didn't require a comment from your behalf (neither did this really)

"Why should the curriculum be ‘lowered’ – good teachers can differentiate their teaching to address the needs of students with a range of abilities. I take it you believe your school has good teachers. Or the school could set or stream." The school is specialised in a very high curriculum. We don not have the resources to diversify. Currrently, all students do English and English Literature GCSE in one time slot. When S students enter, the school will not be able to cope: they will end up giving up the two-in-one GCSE. The C students will have one less GCSE (and a very good GCSE at that!). WHy? Because it is a comprehensive

"‘The results will worsen’ – the results will represent the range of abilities of all pupils in the school instead of just a small minority. And the results at other schools would be likely to improve for the same reason."

The results at other schools won't. Why? Comparative advantage. If one school educates C students, and the other S, they are able to specialise in an education for them, and so the end result is an overall rise in performance. If both schools have to deal with a mixture of both, then they cannot specialise: in our school, I am able to take 5 A-levels (and plan on taking them on for A2). I would not be able to do this at another school (whilst receiving the same amount of teaching time for each subject: I take maths and further maths in one time block, so the amount of class time for all subjects is increase.) For the other schools, they can specialise in teaching Foundation Tier more effectively. Our school hasn't taught a Foundation Tier subject in their history. Adding this into the school will place too much pressure on our already inadequate facilities, and things would have to fundamentally change for the worse. Because every student is taught to such a high standard, that high standard gets higher! Teachers can concentrate on teaching to a very high standard! In my maths class, we have accomplished two-thirds of the a-level course already! Why? Because we are selective!
Rather than having sets for ability, have schools based on ability! It is MUCH more streamlined than sets, and the standard of education rises.

There is no evidence that upper ability C’s would lose interest – even if this category of students and their teachers identify them as such.

There will never be any evidence. How can you place one person in two different situations at once? Even if they were twins it still would be misleading! However, so many bright students are not encouraged to reach for their maximum potential at comprehensives. This is a fact. (more or less). The teachers are too bogged down with encouraging students who plainly will never be encouraged!

Why should committed teachers leave a school with an intake that reflects the general population – good teachers should be able and willing to teach ALL children.

Good teachers want to use their skills for the better: teaching high-standard students. My economics teacher has taught in an East London comprehensive school, so she can teach 'ALL children'. If the teacher came to this school to teach the elite (for whatever reason); if our school becomes comprehensive their wishes and career ambitions are being subverted, so they may leave to fulfill them.

There is not very much evidence that the physical infrastructure of schools has a major effect on children’s educational outcomes – that’s why the government cancelled BSF.
By infrastructure I meant all things that end up being used in teaching. We have so little of these we cannot diversify, and there would be a SUBSTANTIAL fall in teaching standards if we had to.

Yes the school may not be so high in the league table – but they are only there in the first place because they have an unrepresentative intake of pupils – other schools may rise in the league tables for the same reason.
If you were to add up the total ranks now of all the schools, and then if this school was non-selective, the total would fall for reasons aforementioned.

I reject the idea of a ‘bog standard’ school – I visit a lot of schools, they are all very different.
That was colloquialism for ease of reading

Surely we want teachers of high ability in all our schools not just those which cream off the academic minority of children?
If I were a parent, I would want those who are exceptionally qualified to teach C, as C ask questions that require the teacher to be exceptionally qualified, or the teachers have to push C in a way that requires them to be qualified well. S students do not need this necessity. It is unfortunate, but leads to a point that I think has not been mentionaed enough: some people achieve more in life than others! Surely you would want these people to achieve as high they can, to make Britain more competitive in the globalised world, than to reduce them to the standards of these Cs to make the Ss feel better that they are not of lesser ability!

There are plenty of excellent comprehensive schools which are far from closing down – what makes you believe this would happen to your school.

I was hyperbolising there a little bit, but the school's way would be completely different: the academic facilities would shut.

Last major point: in our school, rather than discussing the latest celeb gossip, we discuss current affairs and things that are much more important than the former. You would NEVER get this at a comprehensive: the clever people woul dumb themselves down for the sake of not looking nerdy and making friends. Who would really discuss economics on facebook if their friends would read it and laugh?

As for your last comment – I won’t dignify that with a response.

Fair enough, I shouldn't have typed that.

Sorry for the long wait for the response.

You don't know what you are chatting's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 14:22

By the way, our teachers are just average. It is our drive and willingness to do well that gets us our marks!

Fiona Lane's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 12:44

How do you come to the conclusion that pupils in comprehensives only discuss the latest celeb gossip and clever people dumb themselves down? Oh yes, you've never been in one have you? What a stereotypical comment.
If this were the case, such schools would not send the most able pupils to Oxford and Cambridge and other top universities. As an ex-comprehensive pupil from an area of northern England which had the highest male unemployment in the UK at the time, I managed as good results as the Old Etonians who were my peers at Oxford.
Your comment is insulting to children who value their education and are diligent; I was one and I have also taught many of them. They have good social skills, too.

Tushar's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 16:11

It is not a stereotypical comment: do you think that people who go to grammar schools are excluded from society, because we pride ourselves as so intelligent that we do not dwell amongst these 'peasants'? No - I am friends with all of my mates from my old school, and I am telling you now: I would never engage in a discussion on social affairs, or anything relatively brainy, for fear of looking 'geeky'. This is how it works in my situation. I don't care whether these schools send pupils off to Oxbridge as well, the fact remains that clever people deserve an environment that is best for them to learn: amongst other clever people. Forgive me for my seemless lack of modesty, but at my old school learning was more about showing off my abilities than challenging myself to try and improve them as much as possible. Had I gone to a comprehensive, this would have remained, and there is no way I would have engaged in activities that I do now. I would definitely not be predicted 11 A*s, because at Reading school this prediction is still not the top! At the local comprehensives, I could have worked half as hard and come out top (again, I am trying to be modest, but for the sake of argument it is proving to be impossible). Reading School provides the environment that allows C students to excel in ways that are ineffable, and that is something that you will not understand unless you go to a grammar school. The discussion, debate and passion is far superior to that which is achieved elsewhere, because the amount of C students allows for it to happen. And your last comment is somewhat ironic, because - although I am not caring for the way I am presenting myself on this site - it shows how little social skills you have to try and insult me and think I wouldn't recognise it.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 19:34

The grammar school system is set up to label the vast majority of children as failures at 11. It's unfair and the test itself doesn't test pupils' intelligence.

Chris's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 19:47

Francis I'm afraid I'll have to disagree here.

Perhaps in the past, when there were so many grammar schools, failing was perhaps seen in that way.

However, with the current amount of grammar schools, it's definitely the norm to not get in. That does still make the entrants more "elite" or "prestigious", but it does not mean that the people who fail to qualify are seen as failures. We now have a more balanced system. It continues to offer the brightest minds an environment with similarly bright peers and passionate teachers, but the comprehensive system is, compared to what there was, very strong.

As for testing intelligence... I would dispute what you advocate. The one I took looked at the core skills that should have been picked up on in KS2, and then the third additional paper, non-verbal reasoning, was in many ways similar to an IQ test. It tests the candidates ability to think in a logical and progressive way- which after all is a very important quality for a school that specialises in Science and Mathematics.

Tushar's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:02

How does it not test pupils' intelligence? It is effectively an IQ test for 11 year olds. It is only a bit unfair, because some students may have a bad day.

Tom's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 21:47

You suggest that the entire system of selective education is to label children as failures, this is quite clearly false. The system allows children of any background to be excel in academic endeavors. Your claim has no evidence and is ludicrous. The issue on hand is not about the entire system of selective education, it is about two schools who are in the middle of a debate which was started by the catchment area of an entirely different school changing. Changing the status of these two schools is an overreaction, which will result is more people upset than are now.

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 22:04

Who creates and gives the label of failure?
Who repeats this label?

If a test is inadequate do we make a better test?

Person Who Talks's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 17:39

Actually it just separates those who are gifted and those who are average.
If the test didn't test intelligence then why worry as the school is not selective more like a lucky dip I guess, which tends to end up incredibly lucky as exam results and Ofsted reports go.
But what do I know I guess I'm just a student who got into Reading through luck :)

Bhagya Silva's picture
Sun, 29/05/2011 - 13:02

If the test doesn't test the pupils' intelligence then how do you explain both schools' practically flawless exam results?
If you're going to argue by saying it is the school's teaching that enables us to achieve said results then you would be completely right, but only a foolish man would state that up till Year 7, ever single 11 year old holds the exact same level of intelligence.
I did practise papers 2 hours daily for the 11+ exam for 6 months prior to sitting it, so don't you dare try and suggest that pupils somehow got into the school through luck and financial status, and not through intelligence.
You have resorted to bringing up the ridiculous Free School Meal and the 'children who fail the 11+ exam are scarred for life' arguments countless times because, perhaps, you realise the futility and ridiculous nature of eliminating the selective nature of the two schools.
Be ashamed of yourself Gilbert.

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 19:38

In response to Chris :-
"There is no use in offering an exceptional education to those who cannot achieve exceptional things."
I am a teacher with 16 years under my belt. I love my profession every bit as much as I did when I started - in fact I love it more.
And do you know what keeps me in it?
The very kids you say do not need "exceptional education". Those kids who do not think they have the "innate ability", but with exceptional teaching achieve way beyond what they think they are capable of.
"Exceptional education" is not about teaching to those who already consider themselves "exceptional". It is about unlocking the potential of those children where the odds are stacked against them.
And it is in these schools where you will find the real "exceptional" teachers.
If you would care to look.

Chris's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:03

I admire your confidence. However, I believe that each human being has a unique set of talents and capabilities. In some cases, these may not be academic!

I do not say people don't deserve exceptional education, I say that the ones who can make best use of it are the ones with exceptional innate talents.

You say that great teaching is about unlocking amazing potential. This is exactly how I feel. I think you'll agree with me that a grammar school education, in a grammar school environment, with other grammar school ability pupils, *is* the best way for the potential to be unlocked.

William Shakespeare was educated at a grammar school- does that not say something aobut the fantastic ability a grammar school has to bring the very brightest children to their peak?

And, I wonder, would you agree with me if I said that all children will learn best in a different environment. Some will learn best if surrounded by girls, or by boys, others will learn best in a mixed environment; some will learn best when the students around them are equal ability and continuously push each other to be the best; others will learn best if they are with people more intelligent than them- they will aspire to be the best and it will drive their own passion for learning!

I, having experienced the system myself for 6 years, firmly believe that my grammar school has pushed me to learn in a more complete way than would have been achieved at a regular school. Where it is a well known fact, that some students, even after "Setting" are not able to achieve, because they are continuously held back.

I think perhaps I might have offended you by insinuating that the only good teachers are at grammar or private schools. This is not what I think- I have enormous respect for the teachers who have such desire to help pupils.

Perhaps I am about to be a little snobbish, forgive me. But grammar school students are, by-and-large, able to achieve good solid GCSE grades, and move onto achieve strong A*/A A levels in the subjects they chose. Of course mistakes are made, some grammar school students are bound to be lazy, just as some comp. students are, but there remain opportunities for these people to join a grammar school for the sixth form- if they apply themselves well, have good teaching (99% of teaching nowadays is at least what I would call "good"), and are naturally clever people.

An idea's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:04

So you are suggesting those who teach at Grammar schools aren't "exceptional". No one is suggesting you only find exceptional teachers at Grammar schools, but you appear to be suggesting you won't find exceptional at Grammar schools? Perhaps you would like to go and teach in a Grammar school. I, though only a student, am sure it throws up different challenges to teaching at a comprehensive, they require different "exceptional" abilities.

Rob Davies's picture
Mon, 30/05/2011 - 07:30

Best comment in this set of responses comes from a student!

Ollie Drew's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 19:57

I have to agree with you on this, and those students that have the lower chances due to their situation and want to do well deserve a good education. I feel though, that grammar schools are the key route to achieving this. A hard working student can prepare for the tests and intelligent candidates, regardless of their social or financial background have a chance of a great education. But also allowing the top students, whether they have wealthy backgrounds or not, to get a great education, is also vital, and grammar schools help them to excel due to being in a challenging environment where they are with similar ability students.In the same way sets within schools work, the top students are pushed to their limits and taught to a higher level which they can achieve, which would not be possible with a more mixed ability class.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 08:24

I think you will find that mixed-ability classes for English, mathematics and science are in the minority, as government data for 2008/9 shows:

"at secondary, this data suggests that around 53%, 70% and 60% of lessons are set for English, mathematics and science respectively"

Comprehensive schools can provide challenging environments in the same way as grammar schools. And the converse is also true: both comprehensive and grammar schools can provide unchallenging education which is a situation that needs to be urgently addressed. Note: a school that achieves high exam results may still fail its pupils as this news item about a grammar school failing Ofsted reveals:

Ollie Drew's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 22:27

You misunderstand. My point was that setting in classes was is quite common in comprehensives, and grammar schools work in the same way, but on a larger scale. Reading could be seen as a 'top set' if you like. If it works in comprehensives, why can it not work on a much larger scale?

Laura's picture
Sat, 28/05/2011 - 08:41

I believe that, since this debate is about Kendrick and Reading Boys exclusively, who themselves have both been classified as 'Outstanding' by Ofsted, the statistics regarding other schools from Ofsted are irrelevant.

We are looking purely at the successes and circumstances of these two grammar schools, not those nationwide.

Also, did you know that Kendrick doesn't have the resources to put children into sets for English and Science? I mean that it literally doesn't have enough classrooms and teachers to be able to do it. Therefore a conversion to comprehensive, given that there is no site remaining on the the site for expansion to allow additional classroom facilities, would create an environment where in these two classes the students would indeed have to move at the pace of the slowest child, not being able to achieve their full potential.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 28/05/2011 - 06:25

Except that all pupils in comprehensive schools meet pupils from other backgrounds and the classes are not set for all subjects. For example, class tutorials, Personal and Social Education would be mixed-abilty.

Unfortunately, segregating the "sets" according to schools (ie selection), as I have shown repeatedly using evidence from the OECD, does not improve a country's overall educational score but does impact harshly on the disadvantaged. No country can afford to have an educational system which does not do the best for ALL its children. As I have also said before, the top-scoring European country is Finland, a fully-comprehensive system.

Robert's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:16

Reading School has literally been my saviour. I come from a lesser social and financial background so private education was absolutely out of the question for me. If I had not earned a place at the school (no tutoring), I would've ended up at my local comprehensive. I've watched countless people, friends and family, not reaching their full potential at those schools and I know for sure I would have fell in the same way. Thanks to the tremendous learning environment provided by highly intelligent peers, I have been motivated and coached into a fantastic standard of academic achievement.

The abolishment of grammar schools would only see people like myself not given the opportunity to reach such a level of intelligence, which is surely a height of human achievement to be encouraged. The removal of grammar schools surely then reserves the best education environments for richer people alone (people who can afford private education) rather than there being a chance for others who can't afford private education. You cannot suggest comprehensive atmospheres are as advanced as grammar schools as the results statistics show otherwise.

If this country does get rid of grammar schools, the quite frankly, my opinion of it will lessen.

Sarah Dobbs's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:33

I would love to.....but I'm 40 years old and a mum of 4 kids who can't go out on this lovely summers guys who can, go and make the most of is too short.........really.

An idea's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:40

Reading School students love nothing better than debating the merits of the Grammar school system on a school night. At weekends we move on to hardcore stuff like the pros and cons of a free market system... ;)

Chris's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:41

Dont worry, I have a fun AS Chemistry exam tommorow!

Houmous man's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 20:52

its either this or reading Cicero...and i've read most of his works :(

Dan's picture
Thu, 26/05/2011 - 21:28

Sarah, I would feel are passion on this subject would purely reflect our gratitude at the schooling we have recieved and feel we should take every opportunity to give back to the school community. By protecting our school we are maintaining the opportunities for future years.

On a side note, I have been out tonight as a Scout Young Leader to have fun and help my community, followed by 2 hours of recreational badminton so thank you.

You don't know what you are chatting's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 14:26

We feel strongly about this! This won't affect our chances in life. But we are grateful for what the school has done for us. And we don't want this chance to be deprived from others because it is a wonderful oppurtunity for those bright in society. At least one school should merit those who are clever and provide them with a curriculum that stretches them rather than bores them.

Luke Barratt's picture
Fri, 27/05/2011 - 17:57

This debate is important to Reading School/Kendrick students, who believe in fighting for what they believe in. Any attempts to try and persuade us to stop arguing is just an admission that you can't defeat our arguments.


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