March 16, 2006

Selectivity in education and school admissions

I'll start out by saying my mind is still open on this question – I am not for or against selection and I remain to be convinced either way.

In the last few weeks thanks to the Education Bill I have heard many arguments going back and forth about whether selection in schools is a good or bad thing. I think that this has been an unsatisfactory debate in many ways with a number of glaring inconsistencies on both sides. I would also suggest that the proponents of each argument seem to have little connection with the reality of how kids get into schools in practice and the implicit selection process already in operation.

1) Why is selection at primary and secondary level a big no no when we are more than happy to have a selective system at tertiary level – is there a specific reason why selection at 18 is any more valid than selection at 11? I can see an argument against selection at 5 – but is there a fundamental educational development issue that precludes selection at other stages?

2) We already have a selective education system, one based on wealth rather than ability. If I have lots of money I can move to areas with better schools or choose to privately educate my children. Why is this better than a system that selects on ability? Is a system that rewards ability but could 'leave behind' some children better than one that rewards wealth and leaves behind a different group.

3) Are schools already selective? I seem to remember in my school that whilst you could not select which pupils came to the school they sure as hell selected which pupils went into which class – we were streamed for Maths, science and languages. Why is this ok but the broader issue of selective admission not? Are schools still allowed to do this?

4) Is there a will to properly fund a truely comprehensive system and are parents really interested in an egalitarian education system. Are the resources available to ensure that comprehensives actually work or are we doomed to be a nation of could-have-beens.

5) Are trust schools really an answer to this? I find myself questioning the basis of trust schools on one hand and on the other asking myself how else do we fund improvements in schools. I have not heard a proper answer as to how school improvements could otherwise be funded without the cost being carried by general taxation – now this may be acceptable to the electorate but I would guess that the govt actually thinks it isn't the case.

6) Whose interests are we serving here. Does the comprehensive system benefit the average performer and cause problems for the top and bottom whilst selection helps the bottom and top whilst leaving the middle in limbo. Which scenario is in the national (and the childs) best interest? Is there a middle way which provides for the educational needs of all groups?


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  1. Number 3 is a good point. Haven’t seen it mentioned by anyone. People were split into sets in my secondary school and friends in a local comprehensive, likewise. The subjects for which this happened differed. I suppose those averse to selection at 11 could begin by querying the wisdom of within-school selection. After all, just because it already happens doesn’t make it right. I don’t see that being overly convincing given the ubiquity the practice, the support it has amongst teachers and the reasonable logic behind it.

    Alternatively, you could say that within-school selection is much different in nature. Even if you split students into sets, the mechanism is flexible enough to allow those who improve, to move up a set. Similarly, those who struggle can be moved down. This flexibility allows students to develop at different speeds. In contrast, selecting children at 11 is a once and for all decision. If you fail an entrance exam, you’re stuck in a school even if you develop significantly from age 12. However even this argument implicitly accepts that those in a lower set, who’re best suited to a lower set, aren’t being harmed by the low variance in ability within the set. In the event that all new trust schools selected the brightest pupils, strident opponents of selection need to explain why, holding the number of teachers and finances constant, the lower variance in ability within state schools would be positively harmful to pupils.

    It’s all very well rallying against a ‘two tier system’, but it hasn’t been made clear the mechanism by which less able students suffer by having brighter pupils go elsewhere. If it’s because teachers lower their expectations, the problem lies with the perceptions of teachers and their methods rather than selection at 11 per se.

    I don't think permitting selection will in itself change schools for the better, nor does there seem to be a pressing reason for preventing it.

    16 Mar 2006, 12:35

  2. I would be interested to hear from teachers (or teachers to be!) whether they would find it easier to teach a class where everyone is of a similar ability or whether teaching a mixed ability class is fine.

    In my head I feel that a mixed ability class must be harder – but I have no proof of that.

    Compare this to the issue as to whether children with special needs should be integrated into mainstream education. I feel that there is some considerable value in this, but also consdierable risk. My mother (who knows an awful lot about this) would argue integration is absolutely the right thing, but can integration deliver the specialist teaching knowledge required? You can have a similar debate about provision for Gifted and Talented pupils – something NAGTY discuss at length.

    I guess at the heart of this is the question of whether we can realistically treat all children equally or whether we should accept that difference exisits and build the system to acknowledge and work with it.

    16 Mar 2006, 12:48

  3. Teaching a class of mixed ability must be far more difficult educationally. The teacher has to pitch the same idea at children of differing abilities, and/or pitch at a level which is above some and below others. The alienated pupils get bored and get disruptive, and nobody is learning for the majority of the lesson.

    I genuinely can't see why there is any argument against (flexible) streaming within a school, especially a comprehensive.

    16 Mar 2006, 13:08

  4. That was my thinking – so if streaming is ok, why not extrapolate that out to selective admissions.

    If the issue is that the decision is a one off choice at 11, is it really impossible to think of a system where it is possible to transfer from schools if it was evident that the ability was there?

    16 Mar 2006, 13:57

  5. That's not an argument I necessarily oppose, but it's definitely a separate question. A child can change maths class on a monthly basis if necessary, but changing school is obviously both far less practical and far more (socially) damaging.

    16 Mar 2006, 15:14

  6. I work in the Admissions Department and believe me, the schools won't be able to cope doing it themselves.

    16 Mar 2006, 15:17

  7. True enough, but if the main argument against selectivity is that it locks a child into a single path for the rest of their life, why not build an element of flexibility into the system that ensures that there are points where changes can be made.

    I agree – change is difficult and disruptive, but so is moving house to make sure your child gets into the best school.

    16 Mar 2006, 15:19

  8. Lisa – cope with what? Selecting pupils? Can you explain a bit more.

    16 Mar 2006, 15:20

  9. S.D.

    I don't think that teaching a class of mixed abilities is more difficult. In fact in some cases I think it is much easier.

    As an example, I have been teaching the same final year u/g module for three years now, always with small group sizes. This year the group contains no students who are enthusiastic about the subject matter, and it makes group discussions really really difficult. Last year, and the year before, there has been at least one person who was actively enthusiastic about the course material and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this rubbed off on the entire group and improved the experiences (and therefore the acheivement) of everybody.

    But you don't need to take my word for it. There is mountains of research on this subject, most of which shows that streaming (and consequently selection), whilst benefitting a very small minority at the top of the ability scale, lowers average achievement.

    16 Mar 2006, 15:27

  10. S.D. – an interesting example and thanks for putting the alternative view.

    If this is the case it hasn't been well communicated. The case for comprehensive education is usually described as a political imperative rather than an educational one. Is there research that demonstrates that the alternative – i.e. a comprehensive system – significantly improves average achievement?

    BTW - I would note that by definition, a UG group have already been through a process of selection whereby they were selected to attend the university/course – so by that marker can you make a direct comparison with primary/secondary classes where you don't have that process.

    16 Mar 2006, 15:37

  11. James

    I'm very surprised to read teachers suggesting classes of mixed ability are a good thing. Perhaps it is partially dependent on the subject matter, but I well remember being in maths classes with quite a disparity in ability (this resulted from the 'A' form being selected on the basis of overall results, so that someone very good at humanities would be there even if awful at maths, as was the case for many). The teachers were in despair as to what level to pitch the class. It is pie in the sky to assume that any amount of coaching, encouragement or enjoyment on behalf of the lower achievers could possibly have brought them to the level of the higher achievers. Maths being pure knowledge meant that you couldn't paper over the cracks as might be the case with other subjects; the reality was there and was stark. So I am all for 'streaming' (as it was called) in different subjects within schools. It reflects reality. People could move from class to class as their abilities developed etc.

    Now to the trickier question of school selection. The relevant factors seem to me thus: (i) children should have the opportunity to develop to their academic potential; (ii) such potential varies from child to child; and (iii) there might be some correlation between ability and wealth but by no means a direct or universal one.

    So do we provide schools for the academically gifted, with mobility between them for late developers etc, or do we try and ensure every school is the same, with provision for academic achievers and for those whose talents lie elsewhere?

    Broadly I think this is a matter of resources. Within London there will be many schools close to each other, reflecting the population base, so aiming schools at different levels might be worthwhile. But it woudln't be practical for remoter areas, so they would have to have a single school catering for all.

    I guess I'm ambivalent at the end of the day so long as we don't lose sight of the need for children to be able to fulfil their academic potential, but at the same time realise that academically inclined education and careers are not for all. In the old days we used to have early school leavers become apprentice tradesmen. They were respected and in demand. Now 50% of children are suppsed to get a degree (God knows in what for most of them – sociology I guess) and then get jobs with a mountain of personal debt and no marketable skills … and all the while there is a shortage of plumbers, electricians etc. That is not one of our society's triumphs. The Soviet Union tried a similar thing in the '70s, leading to shortages of farm workers, professors taking on near-illiterates to fulfil quotas, and education being seen as a laughing stock.

    16 Mar 2006, 16:20

  12. Re comment 2 (Tom's) – I remember a maths teacher at my high school saying the hardest set to teach – in terms of lesson planning, not behaviour – was the top set. Every set (there were seven) below had pupils of roughly the same ability, and even the bottom set wasn't too bad. But the top set was hardest to teach as the ability range was from B-grade candidates just above the second set to people who were frankly capable of sitting A-levels two years early with no problems.

    16 Mar 2006, 16:26

  13. As a trainee maths teacher I would definitely say that teaching mixed ability is harder. There is a real danger of the low ability ones getting lost, and the high ability ones getting bored. I am currently teaching a mixed ability Y7 group, and a mixed ability Y8 group and it takes a lot of creativity to come up with suitable activities – and this is with there being three different textbooks so that questions are at the appropriate level.

    I would also agree with Luke that the biggest ability range is often in the top set. This can be exacerbated by schools generally having bigger top sets and smaller lower sets because of the comparitive behaviour problems.

    Interesting point about not having a problem selecting at tertiary – haven't heard that one before.

    16 Mar 2006, 16:47

  14. S.D.

    Tom,

    I think I'm right in saying that counties which have the grammar & secondary modern system do significantly worse exam-wise than counties which have a comprehensive system. But such comparisons may not be fair, due to disparities of wealth etc.

    There is better research evidence on the benefits of streaming/non-streaming in schools. A reasonable summary is that there is no evidence that streaming improves average attainment of pupils, some evidence that it lowers average performance of pupils, and a lot of evidence that it harms the behaviour and attitudes of those in the lower sets. If you're interested here is a large scale literature review on the subject: link

    Since James mentions mathematics specifically, he might be interested in some (very interesting) work from a team at King's that specifically looked at a school which changed it's strategy in mathematics from mixed-ability to setting: link

    My own view is that it is very dependent on the type of teaching that the school wishes to use. Predominantly teacher-led instruction may not work as well in mixed ability classes as predominantly group-work based instruction. Perhaps most tellingly, it is fair to say that a large majority of experienced teachers that I know do not favour grouping by ability.

    16 Mar 2006, 16:53

  15. Christopher Rossdale

    Anyone that knows my blogging will know that i like to have a strong firm opinion on just about everything – but selection in schools is a tough one. Some really interesting points have come up here; but i'd like to offer a slightly different pesepective.

    I came through the grammar system, although i spent a year at a comp and i did my a-levels at an open access college; i worked hardest and most successfully at the open access. The reason in my mind was because of the respect i was shown by the teachers. In the comp the attitude of the teachers was that a student was a problem to be solved – a dart that might reach a good grade, but probably wouldn't. At the grammar it was the flipside – you were expected to get such and such a grade, and if you didn't you were reprimanded and (if below a C at Mock GCSE) thrown off the course. At the college teachers were ready to work alongside people – EMA (money for studying) meant that a lot of students' motivation was poor, but teachers took this and got what they could from the students. At no point did you feel that you were a problem for the teacher – i genuinely believe we weren't. There were several reasons for this – the diversity of the subjects was a big one.

    It's accepted more and more that there are varying types of intelligence – of which intellectual ability is only one. Unfortunately it is the one that schools (and therefore the consequences of academic selection) revolve around: so someone with creative intelligence may well be left behind to feel rejected by the 'acceptable' bounds of intelligence and success. Ditto physical, ditto the others. One real problem with selection as it is is that it rejects all but the narrow conventional types of thought – maths, english etc; and ignores the more diverse elements which are becoming more and more relevant in contemporary society.

    I do think that someone who is more able at some subjects should have the option to be stretched to a greater degree – human intelligence is a great thing, it should be nurtured. But this shouldn't be done at the expense of those whose abilities are just as great, and who are rejected merely because society treats their differing intelligence styles as 'less valid'. An 'up and down' selection model may be the wrong way of thinking about things – more sideways selection may be an option – giving people the opportunity to succeed where they have their natural abilities.

    Another issue is that of late developers – which selection across schools cannot accomodate for on a large scale. I passed my 12+ by 1 mark, but managed 4 As at A-level – more than a lot of friends who had scored far higher marks in their 12+'s. The idea of selection within schools is therefore perhaps more valid, but of course the issue of resources then becomes a problem.

    Tricky one!

    16 Mar 2006, 17:20

  16. S.D – thanks for that paper – wish I had the time to read all 75 pages, but a scan of the summary seems to paint a more complex picture that simply saying that streaming is uniformaly evil. The thing that struck me is that the message seems to be to let schools decide what is best locally rather than try an establish a global standard (correct me if that seems wrong!). It also seems clear that there is a lot more research to do.

    What bothers me a bit is that whilst there may be an ideological reason for backing teh comprehensive system, and that you can make an educational case for such, the practical application as we currently have it is not satisfying the aspirations of an ambitious middle class (oops – don't say it's a class isssue!) and we end up with a weird situation where selection takes place through parental manouvering and we end up with a two tier system by default rather than by design. Is this better than a designed two tier system or is the comprehensive model's future dependent on the type of investment Blair et al wanted to see through the introduction of trust school? If we reject the idea that private/alternative funding is acceptable then we are back to taxation (or teh consumer pays directly). It's easy to see how this can become really difficult.

    16 Mar 2006, 17:57

  17. Chris – an excellent observation – if we select, on what basis do we make the selection? I am reminded of Brave New World where babies futures are determined in the test-tube.

    Hmmm.

    You are right to point out the difficulty we have in this country of moving beyond a traditional concept of academic vs vocational education. It is interesting to compare the cultural value we place on the former as opposed to the latter. I like the idea of the sideways model – and is that not where the whole idea of city academies and specialist schools etc takes us? Of course, such a model is perhaps dependent on a selective process, which as I understand it the specialist schools can't implement.

    Is this a case of good ideas spoiled by bad politicians?

    16 Mar 2006, 18:03

  18. Personally I don't see the problem with setting where it's done properly. My school, a city technology college (set up by the tories, damned by labour) employed setting from year 8 or 9 through to the end of GCSEs. They had entrance tests, but these were to prove to the governement that they were still accepting a normal distribution of abilities, and the admissions procedure was based on an interview to check that there was some vague interest in technology (hence the "technology college").

    The school was in an area of major poverty, and many of the other schools were failing (one was recently made into a "City Academy" or Labour's attempt to reinvent the CTC), the area was an "Education Action Zone", and most of the other schools had partnerships with ours to help them improve. Our school had a pretty good spectrum of the range of incomes in the area, mainly pretty poor, a fair few middle class kids, and I'm struggling to think of anyone you'd think of as upper class (probably enough private schools nearby for that). My point is that the school regularly achieved some of the best GCSE results in the country. In my year I think we got 98.6% achieving 4 A*-C grades.

    Therefore, I think the answer is not to throw up random ideas about restricting this and regulating that, but to look at the model of successful schools and take ideas from them. Despite the remarkable results of our school, there have been no moves to expand their idea of 5 8 week terms a year to other schools, there has been no investigation into how, even with setting, they managed to get even the lowest achievers to passing grades.

    I often think these government ministers make up these white papers sat in an office based on a fairytale world that they make up in their heads, when actually going out and asking the people working in the most successful schools would give them truly effective changes.

    16 Mar 2006, 19:26

  19. Possibly the first time I've agreed with thw whole of a Chris Rossdale post! Spot on, Chris.

    S.D. – thanks for putting forward the alternative view. It doesn't surprise me at all that having one or more "standout" undergrads helps the rest to start contributing, partly because (as James pointed out) the whole class is already "top set" and partly because most people have grown out of bullying the most intelligent group members by sixth form, let alone final year of uni.

    Even in the slightly anti-intellectual environment of most school classrooms, it's predictable that kids working in small groups will benefit and learn more if one of the group is more knowledgeable in the subject, but I would also think that total group learning is, as you say, significantly lower in "taught" lessons. I suppose the question then comes back to teaching methods!

    Paul: well said. Have you ever watched The Thick Of It?...

    16 Mar 2006, 19:38

  20. Simon – Yes, and I worry that it's probably far more accurate than many of us imagine…

    16 Mar 2006, 20:16

  21. I spent a year as a teaching assistant in a rough comprehensive school before I came to Uni, so I have first-hand experience of schools as both a pupil and a teacher.

    I would agree that teaching a class of children of a similar ability is easier, but only up to a point (dependent on location). The top and middle sets would be fine; the problem is that discipline in many state schools is so bad that the having the least able 30 children in one class would be utter mayhem. In my experience some kind of selection is essential, however. We had a girl at our school who was very intelligent but had severe autism, and her mother refused to let her be sent to a special school. The girl had no problem with bullying, which is another issue to be addressed in relation to this subject, but because the teacher-pupil ratios were unfavourable and there were no staff members with the specialist knowledge of her condition she did not receive the attention she deserved, and she suffered for it. Integration is, I agree, great in principle but is very difficult in practise.

    Tom, it should be considered that changing schools would be a significant upheaval for a child, and might, in some cases, negate the benefit of changing to a more suitable institution.

    The essential question is whether we as a country want to, at the two extremes, benefit the average or allow the high-fliers to fly. I agree with non-signed-in James. We are fighting a problem caused partly by the increase in the proportion of children staying in education for longer. I think it's a real shame that the children who aren't necessarily academically gifted in the stereotypical sense, but who go on to fill respectable and essential jobs, are not lauded for their achievements, and are instead forced to undergo a GCSE system to which they are totally unsuited. What is the point in a child going through two years of study to achieve nothing when they could be doing apprenticeships and learning a trade (which is beginning to happen to some children, who drop down to the minimum GSCE quota and spend several days a week at a separate college, or in training). Trying to force everyone through the same system doesn't work, and just undermines the confidence of those at the bottom end of the academic scale. Employers are despairing that young adults have such low literacy and numeracy skills because insufficient time is spent teaching the basics to those who really need it.

    Tom, your comment 16 is, I believe, very valid. One thing that my Mum (herself a teacher at the same comprehensive school) has particularly made a point of recently is that her and her colleagues know what is best for the children but often cannot implement it because they have to follow regulations and meet targets. The current system is restrictive in order to uniformalise teaching standards. The probably brings worse teachers up to a mediocre standard, but it prevents those with more flair and creativity from expressing it.

    It does eventually all come down to teaching methods. I think it's perfectly possible to make a school successful regardless of its selection, setting or location, but you have to have the staff to do it.

    Apologies for ranting: this is a subject close to my heart.

    16 Mar 2006, 20:56

  22. Michael Jones

    It's close to mine too. I consider myself very fortunate to have gone to school in one of the few counties to have retained grammar schools. The basic fact is that, never mind the politicians jabbering on about "integration" and "inclusion", no school in existence would be able to give the best possible education, or even something approaching that, to every pupil thrown at it, if there was no restriction at all on who those pupils might be. Probably more important than that, though, is having some sort of continuity: how can you ensure a smooth, uninterrupted education if, every year or less, someone comes along to tell you that you need to change the system yet again? A year or two back, someone (a public school headmaster I think) made the perfectly reasonable suggestion that, since the average government is in power for a far shorter period than the average pupil is at school, control of how children are educated should be handed over to a NGO, to be comprised of people who actually know something about education – rather than having four education secretaries in eight years, each appointed on the basis of being one of Tony's cronies and thus being in favour when he decided it was time for a reshuffle. It sounded like a pretty good idea, but sadly too radical for most people.

    16 Mar 2006, 21:57

  23. Christopher Rossdale

    Michael – Interesting thought, but it removes all democratic control of schools – a nasty precedent for other 'problem areas' of society (i.e. all areas of society)

    16 Mar 2006, 22:06

  24. Maybe selection based on ability will always have problems but what about selection based on attitude and willingness to learn? (labour rebels pressed blair to take out the selection criteria in the bill concerning interviews). The bill is positive because it does give schools greater frlexibility for the future to deal with questions of selection.
    In the state system you have to recognise the link between the classroom and the community. Schools are only as good as the attitudes of the people in them and if the people in them do not live (be it their own fault or bad parenting) in a culture which sets real value on academic learning and the power of education then you have an issue. This is why in areas like innercity Newcastle you have one of the highest levels of government funding and yet the schools still fail because the problem has as much to do with deprivation and social values. The point being that social values need to change so that pupils respect teachers, want to learn and behave properly, then talk about funding issues. Changing the school system and the trust schools issue are very complicated indeed but you can't reject the influence on community culture in all of this. The bill is positive because it allows schools greater freedom to permit external bodies to influence culture within the classroom (the labour govt's efforts have been futile to say the least) in the hope of changing peoples attitude's for the better. It's still theoretical of course but it needs to be tried and tested to at least give schools the chance.

    17 Mar 2006, 19:03

  25. Havn't read all these posts, don't have time, so apolagies if already mentioned
    One thing in that post really caught me.

    A1) Because tertiary education is not compulsory. Big difference. Jesus, Tom, I would've thought that was obvious.

    17 Mar 2006, 19:35

  26. I don't have time to read all the posts (sorry) but at my school we were all streamed into 'bands' when we arrived. There were two top bands, L and W (I was in L), one middle band, M, and two lower bands, S and T. Everyone knew that the kids in the lower bands were being taught differently because of it (teachers hated taking lower band classes because they were always so misbehaved). When we got to year 8 (2nd year) we were streamed into 'sets' for maths. I was in set 2q, there was another set called 2p, a set 1 etc. Only people in set 1 got to do GCSE statistics. We were also setted for French and Science in year 9, with people in the lower sets doing lower exam papers. We stayed in these sets until the end of GCSE, although people could be moved up or down (the teachers called moving down 'moving across'). My school also wouldn't let you into 6th form unless you had 5 A* to C GCSEs (and this was by no means common in the dump it was). My parents actually picked the school because of the 'bands' thing, as they didn't want me in a mixed ability class. My school was – and is – a 'bog standard comprehensive'. I'm not sure why I'm writing all this, but I think people should know that, in some cases, schools are extremely selective now anyway. I'm not sure if this system helps children who are less able, but it certainly helps those who are more able, as their teachers are not constantly having to give time to the less able kids. I know this last bit sounds prejudiced, by the way, but that's just the way it is.

    17 Mar 2006, 20:00

  27. The current system in Northern Ireland is being changed from selection at 11 by 11+ exam to…

    Actually, nobody has a clue what it's being changed to.

    What's going to happen? The same thing that happened in England. My grammar school, the school that pushed me to be the best I could be, will go private and education will come at £11,000 a year. Not good.

    There are good high schools over here. Forthill College, where my brother goes, is one of them. It copes with everyone, from those at the top end who could have been in a grammar to those who really struggle to learn.

    And it copes with them by streaming. Tightly. You can move up and down the streams till you find your level, and it works.

    Sarah asked if we wanted to benefit the average or the talented. I wish we could do both. But not helping the talented tends to stuff you up, one way or another. They don't achieve as much as they could, which is a shame in itself. But then they get bored and start distracting those around them. It doesn't happen in every case but it's not uncommon.

    Everyone in the same school: I applaud that. Everyone in the same class seems to me to be dangerously short-sighted and damaging for all concerned. The better ones get bored, the not-so-good ones struggle, and everyone else gets distracted along the way.

    This is why I'm not brave enough to be a teacher. :)

    18 Mar 2006, 12:42

  28. Christopher Rossdale

    The bill is positive because it allows schools greater freedom to permit external bodies to influence culture within the classroom

    To be honest, this is one of the sections of this bill that worries me most. The ability to affect 'the culture' of 1500 kids because you've got the money to buy a school is a fairly ominous sign. The guy in coventry setting up a school where he'll be teaching creationism and business ethics is an overused example, but i think it's important. He has the money to instill his values in the children that go to his school – what about the millions of people with better different ideas, but who haven't got the money to undertake one of these ventures. Television's had an individualistic effect on society, and has certainly shaped our culture and consumerist tendancies – private control of schools is a chance to affect students on a much more intensive level.

    18 Mar 2006, 13:03

  29. 28 – Well that's your opinion and you are right to say there will be people excluded from the benefits and those who are fortunate enough to take advantage but that's just the way it is. When it comes to schooling your children, frankly, fair or not, i think parents value choice over imposed 'equality'(something Blair has finally caught onto). In this case there is the chance to give children aspirations to achieve and change negative perceptions about learning. If children who are not academic realise that they can get a job, take vocational qualifications with the potential for sponsorship they can aspire to learn in the knowledge that thay have direction.
    I don't think there will be such a radical change from private sector and other external influences, more likely sponsorship to students taking more vocational qualifications and inspiration for them to go get jobs, enter higher education and better themselves rather than having a lower perception of their prospects and potentially becoming more dependant on the state to secure their future. The bill will create all kinds of backlash and controversy, but i think in theory the opportunities (choice for many) outweigh the potential disadvantages.
    (You cannot take away the 'individualistic effect' of television and private control of schools without increasing direct state control which is completely out of sorts when talking about choice)

    18 Mar 2006, 13:58

  30. All I am gonna add is that a selective system is used in Nortern Ireland (though not is being reviewed) and when you look at the countries pass rate in exams campared to our Home nation counterparts, we have constantly out-preformed them over the last 10 years or so.

    18 Mar 2006, 14:50

  31. "The bill is positive because it allows schools greater freedom to permit external bodies to influence culture within the classroom"

    This may be literally the stupidest thing I've seen on Warwick blogs ever.

    On the wider points, all this talk of choice amuses me greatly. Who has choice? The rich.
    If we're talking about comprehensives…
    "choice" is a fallacy. Let's say we all "choose" the best school or whatever… well, some are still going to have to go to the crap school aren't they? So, where's this "choice"? The choice is there for those who can afford to own a house in the catchment area where there is a "good" mixed, non-religious comprehensive. These, in turn are only "good" because they are populated with middle class kids with the comfortable homelife.
    In a way, the existence of grammer schools can work to dampen this effect, because it's possible that poor kids can be clever, and you don't have to be especially clever for them anyway. But obviously the great majority of these kids are gonna be even richer than those that are at the "good comprehensive" mentioned above.
    Without state control, there will always be these problems, "creaming off" and such like. "independent" schools are not acceptable to me in the slightest. I don't believe people should be allowed to pay thousands for this tailored education, and it teeaches the kids nothing but ignorance and class snobbery. Enforced abolishment please. Kill them if neccessary. I'm happy to do it. Then watch the average achievment of state schools go up.
    The issue ties in with all kinds of things, home ownership, wealth, home culture.

    Hope that shit wasn't mentioned, I'm working through the posts, but there are many.

    And Rossdale'sright. The independent sector of religious fanatics working under the guise of the state sector (where for putting up 10% of the start up costs they get to dictate the curriculum and the staff) is worrying in the extreme.

    18 Mar 2006, 15:01

  32. Frankly i think what you say is worrying and extreme; you are overstating far too much. The Bill isn't meant to be about 'class' or the 'rich' but about giving schools greater freedom and flexibility and providing an alternative to state schemes by potentially allowing external bodies be it charities or business to have a greater involvement in promoting learning within schools. The original point raised concerned the influence of these non state organisations in possibly improving the culture of the school by offering, for example sponsorship schemes and careers events to give students direction and an ambition to achieve. To some people this Bill may fall flat in practice but many believe it will be positive.
    It may be that by offering choice to parents there will be those who lose out but i challenge you to suggest a viable alternative which would not increase state interventionism.

    18 Mar 2006, 16:04

  33. Vincent finds most things are about 'class' and the 'rich'. One true underlying point in his comment, though, is that choice is a fallacy. What's more, parents in general don't care about choice. Why should they? They just want their local school to educate their kids well. "Market forces" are never going to force failing schools to produce better results for the (on average, weaker or less interested) students they're left with.

    Vincent, given that you state (in my opinion correctly) that many good comprehensives get good results because their pupils tend to come from, on average, more comfortable backgrounds, why would abolishing independent schools make any improvement? Surely you just get the same problem of parents moving to be near good schools, but state education would have to cope with about 15% more students (can't remember the figure) for no extra money. Independent school parents are currently paying at least twice: through their own school fees, taking the burden off the state, and via their taxes, contributing to the state's education budget.

    The only "tailored education" independent school parents pay for is a good one, which independent schools generally seem able to provide. There are thousands of parents stuggling to pay huge school fees, who would gladly stop if they thought their local schools could provide a similar chance for their kids. As soon as state schools reach the right level, the independent sector becomes redundant by default. A little pointer, although I'm opposed to the concept of school league tables: only one school in the top 100 is a non-selective state school. All the other state schools – about a third of the 100 – are grammar.

    Incidentally, I'm also opposed to allowing external bodies the kind of control over state schools that you talk about.

    18 Mar 2006, 16:50

  34. I havn't read all this yet and will do soon but just wanted to point out:
    While the government might rally against these 'selective' school, they only care if it's selection on the basis of intelligence.
    Selective schools that select based upon a family's religious persuasion are numerous, yet no-one is doing anything about this.

    18 Mar 2006, 17:02

  35. James

    Dean has hit on an important point though one that is so politically charged it gets little attention in education debates in the media and elsewhere. Before the last election, I watched Tony Blair on television being confronted by a young Muslim. The chap said to Blair that he did not see how one could want a multicultural society but at the same time allow private religious schools. He had attended one such place, and ideas of 'inclusiveness' and 'equality' were out the window. I know of Catholic schools with the same sort of outlook and also the most extreme form of selection: the family, not just the individual child, had to show a very heavy commitment to Catholicism, preferably a long history of involvement in the RC church. My own view is opposed to religious teaching of the young, and in favour of tolerance and equality. On the other hand, my wife who does school inspections (she's a dentist) tells me that religious schools always have better-behaved children. And I think it's wrong to try and teach respect for its own sake. There are some funny people out there. Some believe in a flat earth. Others in cannibalism. I don't have much respect for any of them.

    Of course, asking for consistency from politicians is a laugh; just look at the number of Labour politicians who've sent their children to private schools. I find it sickening that they use education as a way of taking cheap political shots, such as the lies Gordon Brown told about Laura Spence (behaviour of which Chairman Mao would have been proud).

    Thanks to all those who've given thoughts on streamed classes. I think a lot of the problem comes with misguided notions of equality. All children are not intellectually equal. Our own experience tells us that. We all had friends better than us at some subjects and worse at others. I can beat my sister at trivial pursuit every time yet at the age of 11 her mathematical ability ran rings around mine at 15. Some are gifted salespeople; I couldn't sell a passport to a Russian. (SD I am having problems with adobe but will check the link you referred me to as soon as I've fixed it.) Lumping everyone into the same classes (and by extension the same schools) seems inherently flawed.

    18 Mar 2006, 18:21

  36. One true underlying point in his comment, though, is that choice is a fallacy. What's more, parents in general don't care about choice. Why should they? They just want their local school to educate their kids well.

    I’d agree to an extent. Still, I wonder how much of that indifference is due to many years of education ministers pushing homogeneity albeit under the banner of equality of opportunity. It seems quite plausible that some would quite like to have schools oriented towards their faith, towards special needs, or towards certain subjects. Clearly, such an educational free for all isn’t possible at present but greater choice may be desirable even if you’re not granting the ability to select students and tailor the curriculum. Parents may not be interested in choice per se, but rather its instrumental role in raising average quality. A parent may want to send her kid to the nearest school but the likelihood of that school being a good one is higher if its faces consequences for poor performance other than a telling off from Ofsted.

    I think it’s incorrect to state that all poor schools would do nothing to stem a tide of people leaving in favour of more independent trust schools. In an extreme case, you end up with too few students to make it viable. Before we say this is a bad thing, you’ve got to ask why people are leaving in the first place. Nor is it obvious that the students left behind would be the most weakest and most vulnerable – what matters is the attitude of the parent. There will be schools who for some reason survive despite being poor, but life is surely better for those students who have left. That to me seems reason enough to support the greater choice that could result from making schools easier to set up.

    That bit of free-market fundamentalism aside, I understand Chris' worries in comment 28. Children are undeniably affected by the culture they operate within for many hours of the day. What role do we see for the exam boards in all of this? Even a hypothetical religious school telling students that illnesses are a punishment from God, must teach scientific theories of immunology if pupils are to get though GCSEs. A school could perhaps train students to think one thing and say another, but intuition suggests this is a bit far fetched; particularly when parents act as a check on schools’ behaviour. In the case that parents are in full agreement with what's being taught, the argument against partnerships seems less forceful. In the absence of religious schools for example, a kid would go home from his secular schools and be told by his parents and by his church that what he's learned is incorrect; that the school isn't teaching Genesis creationism because they're not enlightened. For most people, I fear a few science lessons is no match for a lifetime of religious experience.

    18 Mar 2006, 18:50

  37. It's interesting that you think 'choice' is a fallacy and i frankly can't believe that parents don't care about choice when it comes down to their education, which is what you seems to be implying. In general there might be those who don't give a damn either way because their kid is going to the local school whatever the circumstance (so they want good education in the local school as Simon pointed out) but if there are several good 'local schools' of which one has a better record for, say teaching then choice becomes important.
    The whole point of the original bill when it was being drafted last year was geared towards providing more choice for parents. With this new bill you can argue either way about whether choice will be damaged or not by trust schools depending on which end of the spectrum you are coming from though it is clear that the majority in the commons voted it through on the basis that it was soundly understood to provide greater independance, flexibility etc for schools and improve choice for parents. The labour rebels felt otherwise…

    18 Mar 2006, 21:23

  38. Peter, if there are several good local schools then this argument becomes redundant. A good school is one that provides a good education; what other criterion can be more important? If there are several providing this, it's a nice dilemma to have, but it's hardly a major concern as the child will do well wherever it ends up. Think of my point regarding "choice" as two alternative scenarios:

    Scenario 1: All schools in an area can provide a child with a decent education. Children generally go to the nearest secondary school, alongside the friends they have known through primary school, all of whom live locally. Most children can walk or cycle to school because they live so close. Parents have limited choice as the school takes a large majority of pupils based on who lives closest.

    Scenario 2: Status quo. Some schools are good, some are very good, some are very bad. Every parent has a hitlist of the same three schools which they want their kids to go to, out of the ten in the area. Thirty per cent of parents get their wish; the other seventy feel let down and disillusioned at being left in a bad school. A proportion of the successful thirty per cent have purposefully bought a house near their favoured school in the last few years, to improve their chances of getting a place. Those house prices have risen rapidly in the last few years because of the school's proximity. Teachers can't afford to live locally and commute miles to school. Children travel miles to school, usually by car. Traffic around 8:40 and 3:30 is untenable. Childrens' friends live scattered all around the town, none within walking distance. The Government's "Integrated Transport Strategy" and "joined-up thinking" are in tatters.

    Scenario 2b: Rural area. One rubbish school nearby, but the "choice" to send kids to another one miles away. What choice?

    Give parents the "choice" between these two scenarios and they – along with every sociologist and town planner – will take the option which gives everybody access to reasonable education in their local area. Hence I cannot see the justification for trying to shower parents with "choice" when all they want is reasonable quality. Market forces do not help parents whose kids are in bad schools, because where can they go? Off to stretch the resources of a better one, which they've already tried to get into but been turned away for lack of places?

    18 Mar 2006, 23:16

  39. PS Peter, you clearly have far more faith than I do if you believe that every MP read through the new Education Bill in its entirety, considered it for themselves, consulted their constituents and then followed their own conscience to vote as they saw best. I hope you don't think party politics was absent from the voting process. But I'm sure, at least, you don't believe that every MP who votes for a Bill agrees with every (or even any) aspect of it.

    Actually, your confidence exceeds mine if you think any Bill is an optimal solution formed out of cross-party and apolitical expert advice, free from kneejerk reactions and personal preferences. But there we go; call me an old cynic.

    18 Mar 2006, 23:47

  40. Re comment 38 point taken but i was merely using one example to illustrate; we are going to disagree on this because it depends on what you believe parents to value etc etc. You have obviously considered this in great depth but i think ive made the point clear enough now.
    Re comment 39 – Well you are now rather cynically speculating…

    19 Mar 2006, 00:58

  41. Simply put i do not see the extension trust schools as negative. The Bill has the potential to provide greater influence within schools from charities and the wider business community which could help with children's education and future job prospects particularly in deprived areas. In the 1980's/90's 'Enterprise schemes' were established to revitalise innercity urban areas using private sector firms given incentives from the government but without needing to shell out millions of pounds directly. You may see the influence of the private and voluntary sector in schools as negative but given the state of education today something radical needs to be done.

    19 Mar 2006, 01:22

  42. Dean, you will find that religious schools in general show better attainment than their non-religious comprehensive counterparts. And the government does not "rally" against selective schools. Their kids are in selective schools, you dweeb.

    James, if you're gonna be going on saying that Catholic schools teach intolerance, you're wrong. Activity in the church is not the most extreme form of selection by a long shot. Better than money or intelligence (with money implied). And (comprehensive) Catholic schools are not private, unlike Muslim and Jewish schools. They are under state control. You're confusing the issues of independent religious schools and state religious schools. We don't have the situation that was in the states where it's either state or religion (independent).

    Your man Simon Young:
    The answer is state intervention to prevent people moving places and driving up prices to get away from blacks and the poor. You make every school essentially the same.

    The legend that is Peter Thomas:
    "sponsorship schemes and careers events to give students direction and an ambition to achieve."
    Careers events? Simple indoctrination of the 'money and individual gain=good'. I'd rather not, thank you.

    "It may be that by offering choice to parents there will be those who lose out but i challenge you to suggest a viable alternative which would not increase state interventionism."
    I'm not trying to. I don't work within the 'smaller state=good' crap that others do.

    19 Mar 2006, 14:07

  43. The sole purpose of careers fairs is the procurement of free pens.

    19 Mar 2006, 17:44

  44. James

    "The answer is state intervention to prevent people moving places and driving up prices to get away from blacks and the poor. You make every school essentially the same."

    What??? State intervention to prevent people moving house? I didn't think even the failed Soviet bloc went that far.

    It is a fact, unfortunate or not depending on your point of view, that people will send their children to schools reflecting their values. It is cloud cuckoo land to think that there can or should be state intervention to prevent that. The only thing the state can or should try and do is raise standards for all schools so that children whose parents aren't wealthy enough to move to the best areas still get a decent education. And it should prevent extremist schools of whatever ideology/religion.

    I am glad to hear (assuming it's true) that Catholic schools don't teach an intolerant viewpoint although I am bemused as to how you can structure your school around one monotheistic religion and yet teach children that other religions/world views are of equal value.

    A while ago I read of cries that a white family were being discriminatory by refusing to send their child to a local school (in the East End of London) because it was 90% Bangladeshi. Not a word from the PC media about whether it was discriminatory of the Bangladeshi parents to create a school 90% Bangladeshi in the first place …

    20 Mar 2006, 10:58

  45. More state intervention in life???!!! This will simply mean less freedom and paying more for a worse service be it education or whatever else. I thought we had got away from the man in Whitehall knows best.

    I reject the scenarios of comment 38. No 1 is totally unrealistic across the board, there are always going to be differences arising, the question is how can we iron these out and improve standards. This can only be done by more choice and that means allowing some bad schools to fail. If at the same time you allow good schools to expand, take over the buildings of the bad schools, have more freedom to run the school as their teachers see fit then these schools will quickly fill the gaps left by the old bad schools hence raising standards for all.

    A lot has to come down to discipline problems and pupils not being expected to do well. I do not buy the smaller class sizes making for better results, this is a factor but it is dwarfed in comparison to discipline problems. Compare Victorian 40+ class sizes with class sizes now and then consider that Victorian children had better basic literacy and numeracy than we do now at the same ages.

    We also have to realise that competition is a good thing. Shielding the little darlings because they can't cope will only mean bigger problems later in life when they get out to the real world. If they have it then, why not at school? Even though the exam system shows year on year improvement for 15 years (I forget the exact amount) can we really say that standards have gone up? I remember doing past papers and noticing the later you went back the easier it was. As an example also when my mum did O-levels Calculus (integration and differentiation) was albeit briefly on the syllabus for maths, now my sister informs me you can do a whole AS without doing any. Improvement? What we need is to start again with exams and produce more difficult ones so they will stretch those at the top, while producing others for those at the bottom. But the exams for those at the bottom aught to teach proper spelling and grammar etc. so these people are actually employable. It would also allow them to concentrate on vocational qualifications and apprenticeships so we can have properly skilled plumbers, electricians etc.

    Just another thought on Northern Ireland. Its selective system (11+ exams) also means that at HE there is a far higher proportion of those from lower social groups going to university than elsewhere in the UK in addition to it constantly outperforming the UK in terms of grades.

    20 Mar 2006, 11:28

  46. James,
    i'm not saying people wouldn't be able to move house, I meant the intake of each school is not neccessarily based on catchment area and wealth.
    On the religious issue, you seem to think this is the 50s. It's 2006, mate: No one believes in God, no one cares about religion, no one cares which religion is best or equal or whatever. Seriously, it didn't cross our minds. RE was just another lesson. I don't remember or care what types of rock did what from geography class. We all made our own minds up from what we saw on the streets. There was none of this indoctrination shit that some atheists think of.
    And I presume this Bangledeshi school you're on about, the intake was on catchment area, in which case, no one made it 90% Bangledeshi. You need to put that into some kind of context please.

    "I thought we had got away from the man in Whitehall knows best."
    I'm not in Whitehall yet. When I am, you'll know.

    20 Mar 2006, 16:09

  47. Interesting debate, never seen so many comments on a blog…

    I would be against selecting children at 11, when you're that young you're not necessarily interested in studying and there's enough pressure later on without having to start then.

    I entered the english education system in year 9 at a performing arts school and was so bored by academic subjects that i achieved mediocre GCSE results (although i did take an a-level early and got an A). I started getting interested in my sixth form though and finally got 3 As and a B (and an A at an AS). If i had stayed at my other school i would have been expected to achieve less than that, and probably would have because the classes were so unchallenging.

    So i guess i'm on the anti-streamlining side. I like to think people should all have a chance at having a go and forcing people into doing a GCSE tier where even if they get 100% will equal a B or a C seems ludicrous to me. It's as if they are being set barriers as to how well they can do.

    I'm all for different speeds of teaching for those with more difficulty in the subject but i'm definitely all for everyone getting the same paper.

    20 Mar 2006, 22:29

  48. I had a long chat with my Mum about this (a teacher of many years standing) and she made some interesting points.

    1) At the crux of the debate lies the conflict between two ideological veiws – Whether you see education as serving the interests of the individual or whether you see education as being part of a broader communal good.

    At the moment the emphasis seems to be on what is best for the individual rather than what is best for the broader community at a local and wider level.

    2) Tied to this is the notion of choice. You can define choice in a number of ways but the key arguement here is whether choice means "parental choice" or "educational choice". My Mum argues that the debate about choice has got sidetracked by the idea that parents should have the right to choose rather than concentrating on schools being allowed the flexibility and freedom to offer a range of choices within their local areas, building partnerships between schools and other agencies to offer a broader curriculum designed to meet the needs of children of different abilities.

    3) The comprehensive system is failing because it has never properly been supported. Rather than provide sufficient political backing the system has always been a bit half-arsed and tied down to political masters dictating what should be taught and how.

    4) We need to get over the idea that academic subjects are somehow more worthy than vocational and technical ones. We struggle in the UK because we consider academic subjects to be the pinnacle of educational achievement, even if it means forcing round children into square classes (did that come out right?)

    5) Where schools are given the local flexibility to innovate and create partnerships between them, there is good evidence that progress can be made – essentially a group of schools sharing ideas, skills and practice.

    6) The govt at the moment is making funds available for innovative projects – but only making them available to single schools – and you have to prove about a million things, fill in a million forms and bend over backwards to get them – last time I checked that wasn't how innovation worked anywhere else! Also, what benefit is there going to be from such innovations if the funding and knowledge is not shared? You end up with another school improving and others not getting the opportunity to do so.

    7) We need to reconnect schools to communities to demonstrate how schools benefit and inform local communities – make schools important again, bring people in to use the facilities and demonstrate how schools can work with people to broaden the experience and opportunities for a wider range of people than just the immediate parents and children with a direct stake in the school.

    In some ways this last point is, I think, the most important. I am reminded of how students relate to rental accomodation – squeeze it for a year and then never think about it again. Is that how parents see schools? In our village we are lucky enough to still have a village school, but in the last 18 months I struggle to think of anytimes the school got involved in local events or activities. When I went to my village school 25 years ago the school was involved in every aspect of village life and was an integral part of the community. We seem to have lost that – schools are no longer community resources, they are kiddie factories. And you can see why those who aspire to the better BMW or the better Merc also want to make sure that their kid gets that next model up in their schooling too.

    21 Mar 2006, 08:57

  49. Very interesting comment.

    1) I think it ought to be a bit of both, but I don't see that the two are mutually exclusive or totally contradictory. I do believe also in education for educations sake. I haveno problem with someone doing a History or Classics degree for instence then doing a job not related to that. They did the degree because they were interested in the subject and as a by-product it has trained their mind.

    2) Agree entirely, schools ought to have as much freedom as possible. In some ways the National curiculum is not a good thing as it is very prescriptive.

    3) Very difficult though for the polititians to give up the power. Firstly they never do! Secondly if there was a seperate NGO body in charge or control over curiculum was left mostly to the schools with the governments only role to be to ensure provision of schools and to not be the provider, what would happenwhen it didn't go well and the government were getting the blame. How tempting would it be to get in there and legislate!!!

    4) Hear, hear. Proper provision for vocational subjects and encouragement of apprenticeships. But don't have silly things in the league tables though. A GNVQ = 2 A-levels???? Keep the two seperate to show what is going on but value them equally.

    7) Also a culture of less litigation and more respect for teachers. Maybe then the teachers will take more after-school clubs, sports activities and musical activities as they do (and are expected to do if able) in private schools.

    21 Mar 2006, 15:59

  50. I think the point I was making in regards to 1) was that there should be a balance rather than an over-emphasis on one or the other.

    If you push it too far the other way you end up with the sort of social engineering experiments that quite rightly put people off. Education is not a battle-front in the class-war (Huh, Vincent!).

    I had the conversation on Thursday evening and was planning on adding the comment on Friday until the great IT disaster of 06 (part 2, or is it 3 now?) struck and prevented me doing so, so forgive me any ambiguities.

    21 Mar 2006, 16:22

  51. Vincent:

    "On the religious issue, you seem to think this is the 50s. It's 2006, mate: No one believes in God, no one cares about religion, no one cares which religion is best or equal or whatever."

    Wow – have you not seen the news over the last, ooooh, 6 years.

    Religion still seems to be rather fundamental (ha ha!) to quite a few people.

    21 Mar 2006, 16:25

  52. James

    Tom's already made this point, but anyway:

    " No one believes in God, no one cares about religion, no one cares which religion is best or equal or whatever"

    Vincent seems not to have heard of some chaps who murdered 52 people in London recently. Or Abu Hamza. Or … oh well you get the point.

    21 Mar 2006, 16:30

  53. you know, I knew some dweeb was gonna come up with something like that. Two of you did it. Lord, give me strength. You've taken it out of context. I was saying that in a particular context. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go read or something, because it's an absolute fact. I don't want to have to describe the situation in the Catholic church to you from start to finish.
    Even if you missed that, the fact that you two both pointed to recent incidents or "the last 6 years" shows your own ignorance of the development Islamic terrorism. It's not new. Get over it. Stop qouting recent things at me.

    21 Mar 2006, 23:02

  54. Vincent

    Absolute facts?

    Even in context (as you suggest) your statement is over the top and grossly sweeping.

    Perhaps if you employed less hyperbole your arguements would carry more weight.

    Umm – and I have a pretty good understanding of Catholic doctrine, the history of Islam, the relationship between faith and the state and other matters over the last, oooh, 6 to 700 years. I just don't like to pitch my opinions as absolute because I have the humility to recognise that there are damn few of those in life.

    22 Mar 2006, 09:22

  55. James

    Vincent,

    What you said was "It's 2006, mate: No one believes in God, no one cares about religion, no one cares which religion is best or equal or whatever. Seriously, it didn't cross our minds."

    The example I gave was of the murderers – British born and raised – who clearly did believe in some sort of God. So that's right in context, thank you. You said 'It's 2006' – that's why Tom and I mentioned recent events.

    In any event, your statement was laughable – "it didn't cross our minds" – either you have a large network of friends, ie the entire country, or you are making an absurdly sweeping statement.

    22 Mar 2006, 14:08

  56. The context was:
    Catholic schools. Simple. If you read back you will see this particular strand of this entry came about after someone was impling that students in Catholic schools were bieng taught to be "intolerant". While "no one" may imply to the casual skim reader that I was actually claiming that no one at all believes in God, I'm sure you have enough nous to see it was clear I was talking about students in Catholic schools under the state system. You yourself have (mistakenly if you wanted the quote to back you up) included the part where I wrote "our". It was all quite obvious. Please try to keep up with the discussion.

    by "situation in the Catholic church", I did not mean issues of Catholic doctrine. That's irelevant to the point I was making. Which was, as I have said above, decline in church attendence and people entering the clergy, and all the things they entails. These are the fact I was talking about.
    If you kids would like me to make it easy to understand:
    1. There is no culture of intolerence in any Catholic state school
    2. In any case, assuming kids listen to teachers, and would take any notice anyway, is naive.
    3. This is obvious in the fact that church attendence is significantly reduced, and is only anywhere near respectable because of old people and recent immigrants from religious countries

    [Note: the above text (^) is in reference to the situation in the Catholic Church. It makes no claim on the universal belief in God or anything of the sort.]

    22 Mar 2006, 22:00

  57. i know this conversation seems to have moved onto discussing the role of religion in schools and society as a whole, but i'd quite to add some thoughts on the original topic.

    Growing up I attended both a comprehensive secondary school and a grammar secondary school, and i can say hands down that selective education IS a necessary part of the education. The only person that loses out with attempts to create a non-selective academic system is the child. As some of you have pointed out, children are not intellectually equal, so it makes much greater sense to seperate them into environments where they can work with people of similar working pace, and progress at a rate suited to their learning capacity.

    As a bright student, my time at the comprehensive school brought me nothing but confidence knocks. I was in a class with children who were so dyslexic they could barely write their name, and I was recording level 7s and 8s in my english assignments. However, it was me who stuck out like the sore thumb- teachers singled me out like some sort of freak show, and the other kids took the piss out of me for being a boffin. Don't get me wrong, I had plenty of friends, but I felt completely out of place, had to slow my working pace to keep in line with my class mates, and felt ashamed to be intelligent.

    I remember coming home from school at 14, just after i'd started at the local grammar school and telling my mum 'wow its amazing. one minute you can be talking about eastenders and the next minute you're debating about whether god exists!' It was so enlightening for me to not only be in an academically challenging environment, but one where I felt like a normal child.

    And before you level arguments against me about me being in a minority, think about this: my younger sister is incredibly bright, but never seemed to quite perform in her exams. She went to a comprehensive and a grammar school like me, and when she was at the comp the only people concerned about her exams were my parents, because she still performed above average compared to other children in her class. It was only when she went to the grammar school that her exam problems were really picked up, she was tested, and they found that she had a form of dyslexia that impaired her writing speed. When she came out of her gcse english exam, she told me that she didn't care what mark she got because it is the first time in her life that she'd ever finished an english exam.

    And they say selective education is a bad thing?!

    25 Mar 2006, 23:24

  58. Nicholas Newman

    It is interesting how many of the MPs who voted against the Education with parents visitors when one note's the eagerness of many parents to send children to religious schools, even if the parents do not subscribe to a particular faith school religion. They are doing this, due to the better educational results and behaviour in such places. It is interesting to note like many popular private schools, such establishments are the opposite of the politically correct ideal of many Education academics. In fact such schools provide strongly structured corporate learning environments, so hated by liberal educational theorists. Yet these traditional establishments are the ones often providing the children with the results society demands for its future prosperity. This explains the growing popularity perhaps of military sponsored schools amongst the poor and middle class in the USA, as a more certain opportunity at ensuring a child’s future progress. What these schools appear to be doing right is providing a heavily structured learning environment, which will bring a child the stability it needs to make sufficient educational progress to achieve its dreams and provide the nation with the skilled people it needs to maintain economic progress. see classroom choas

    26 Mar 2006, 13:36

  59. I had to sit incredibly hard exams to get into my independent school – I think your assumption in (2) that wealth = good education is pretty naive.

    Only the worst independent schools will not be selective.

    27 Mar 2006, 20:29

  60. Kunal – I think you missed the point. The issue is not about affording independent education but of parents moving house to get into the catchment area of good state schools. The relationship between the quality of a school and local house prices often means you end up excluding people who cannot afford to move to an area, and perhaps worse, exclude local young families who cannot afford to buy in the area they grew up.

    When we were selling our house in Warwick we actually had a couple come round who wanted to buy our house as it was in the catchment area for a good school – they didn't actually want to live there, they just wanted to own a property in the catchment area so their kid could get into the school.

    28 Mar 2006, 08:51

  61. Sorry I have not read all the posts above.

    My view is this:

    I went to a really crap Junior School. It would have been very very unlikely that I would have passed the 11+ to get into a grammar school. However, I worked hard in secondary school and achieved good grades. If the selective system being suggested was in place when we were younger – I very likely wouldn't be at Warwick today.

    31 Mar 2006, 02:03


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  • A Romany saying: Sori simensar si men 'We are all one: all who are with us are ourselves' Thank you,… by David Morley on this entry
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