20 May 2007

Long Live Grammar Schools!

This past week, when David Willetts attempted to unveil a new Conservative policy to boost social mobility by expanding Labour's Academy Schools programme, the media tried to convince us that the Conservative Party under David Cameron no longer believed in grammar schools.

Today the Conservative leader effectively proclaims, "Grammar schools are dead - Long live grammar schools!" promising to deliver the benefits of academic streaming for all, not just the few — "a 'grammar stream' in every subject, in every school." He says that the Conservatives will introduce:

  • A policy of zero tolerance of bad behaviour and bad language in every school in the country.
  • Aggressive setting by ability.
  • A massive liberalisation of the supply-side of education, with open enrolment and money following the pupil.
Let's see how the media tries to spin that!


Lucy M said...

I think the new policy treads a careful line - not doing away with the grammar schools that exist, but recognising that grammar schools are not "the solution" to the education problems we face in this country.
The fact is the difference between a good school and a bad school, primarily, is the engagement of parents. How do they engage with the school? How do they engage with their children on the topic of education?
If we're serious about raising standards in education we need to work out how to get parents "on side", fighting for their children, while recognising that some of them will find schools intimidated and others will have a very low opinion of schools. Perhaps they didn't attend themselves and don't think an education will benefit their children particularly.
At the same time we need to take the shackles off teachers, particularly head teachers, and stop the endless hoop-jumping imposed by Ofsted, much of which does nothing to raise standards in schools but simply panders to the New Labour need for absolute uniformity whatever the practical cost. Lets give parents the support and encouragement they need, and lets give teachers space to teach.

Anonymous said...

I am rare thing, a conservative teacher in my 20's working in a City Academy.

Our Academy works with some of the toughest students society has to offer, yet we offer them facilities that most grammar schools could only dream of. Moreover our school streams by ability and offers a genuinely bespoke experience for different gruops of learners - from pre-Oxbridge preparation at one end to Key life skills at the other.

Standards on such key matters as uniform and behaviour are high and results are improving. Isn't this social justice? Whereby the those with the least get the chance to access the very best, free of wealth or selection?

The reality is that most City Academies are in predominantly Labour areas, and are rarely understood or visited by Conservative supporters who speak in ignorance of them. Many (although not all) Academies combine the best aspects of the Grammar System (house system, competition, excellence etc) and marry it with the finest facilities and the benefits that the sponsor can bring. Academies are free from LEA dogma and focus on raising standards and providing a first class education. The results of Academies to date show that they are raising standards at a faster rate than any other type of schoo (okay from a low base) but they are popular with parents and are all heavily over subscribed.

In my view, it is delusional to compare a home counties grammar school wich creams off the best, with an inner city Academy. In most areas of the country Academies are the only hope for parents dischanted with the bog standard "specialist" LEA school.

Academies work. Parents love them. The shadow front bench has finally realised this. It is perfectly acceptable to promote City Academies and keep excellent grammar schools (they are more similar than you think!)

William MacDougall said...

"a 'grammar stream' in every subject, in every school." is nonsense. Like saying "a Premier football squad in every village".

Willets' speech and Cameron's subsequent defence and attack on Grammar supporters are unacceptable. Willets should go and Cameron should do a U-Turn.

MikeC said...

William, I'm not saying I entirely disagree with you, in the sense that it's never going to be easy to offer the very most appropriate kind of teaching / learning environment for every kind of need, and naysaying is necessary to avoid an excess of exuberance for one approach or another at the expense of wisdom.

But, surely a grammar stream in every subject is nothing like a Premier club in every village, but a bit more like a 1st and 2nd XI in every village. Perhaps an Eton in every village would be over the top, certainly, but not a grammer stream aspiration.