Wednesday, 24 August 2016

De-bunking the grammar school mythology

Well said, Angela Rayner! Selective education does indeed belong in the dustbin of History", especially as the so-called "golden age of grammar schools" is a myth perpetuated by the Tory propaganda machine (Morning Star, 08/08/16). It is, moreover, a myth which needs urgent de-bunking, alongside the one which is currently being fed to us about Theresa May`s caring and compassionate Conservatism, aimed at decreasing inequality. No-one who cares about giving everyone a fair and equal chance in society can possibly support grammar schools, let alone consider increasing their number.
       Of course, many working class students achieved success in grammar schools, but that does not mean social mobility increases under a selective system. In a comprehensive school, these working class pupils would have succeeded just as well, whilst none of their peers would have been written off, and sent to secondary moderns, or their equivalent, where they would have been deemed no-hopers. No-one who experienced the 11 plus examination will forget the divisiveness of the procedure, and the disillusionment and unhappiness of friends who "failed". To even talk of 11 year-olds "failing" is disgusting.
      Not that all of those who passed the selection process were on the path to success. In most grammar schools, yet more selection, again based on the results of the same examination, ensured that only about thirty pupils, the ones in the A-stream, received anything like a reasonable education. The ones destined for B and C streams were given a "different" curriculum, including woodwork and cookery, presumably more suited to their abilities! Results in grammar schools were never as good as they should have been, simply because over half the students were never expected, or encouraged, to pass examinations.
     I read recently of some young people turning to Ukip, because of that party`s preference for grammar schools; they cannot possibly know how appalling most grammar schools were, especially when compared to today`s comprehensive schools, the real "centres of excellence" in our society. There, because they were created in the knowledge that students` abilities and potential continue to develop long after the age of 11, all pupils get the opportunity to demonstrate their talents.
    Wasn`t it the success of comprehensive schools, in enabling all pupils to prove their worth, which caused Michael Gove, back in 2010, to end coursework and resits, not to mention the maintenance grant for potential 6th formers, and to place more reliance on punctuation, memory tests and end of course examinations? Will May turn the clock back? Yes, but not to 2009; she`s going back to the 1950s and 60s!
       Discipline in boys` schools was based on corporal punishment, by means of striking of a cane on to the unfortunate boy`s backside; I well remember still having ridges and bruises days afterwards. Teaching lacked invention, encouragement, variety and even decent preparation, and this was in the grammar schools. Imagine how much worse it would have been for the 80% of pupils in the secondary moderns.
   Don`t believe the Tory nonsense about grammar schools and social mobility; don`t be persuaded that there is even a reason to debate May`s proposal. It has to be rejected, totally!


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