Grammar schools; who will get in?

I don’t know if any of you watched the recent BBC 2 series which compared two local schools in South East London - Grammar Schools; who will get in?

The programme, I would think, has been commissioned because the government is now looking at relaxing the ban on creating new grammar schools which has been in place since 1998, when the then government said no new selective schools could be created. Some still exist though and this series focused on a grammar school which selected only girls from the top 20% of the ability range and also a nearby comprehensive which took everybody, boys and girls. Of course, many of the girls at the comprehensive were those who did not pass the 11 plus and were therefore denied entry to the grammar school. Of course, the grammar, with its selective intake, achieved far higher results than the comprehensive – hardly surprising!

I do not believe that creating more grammar schools is a good idea. My reasons are less ideological, more based simply on fact. That is, there is absolutely no evidence that grammar schools improve social mobility or indeed that children who attend them achieve any better than they would in a comprehensive system. In addition, the creation of new grammars will cost a huge amount of money at a time when resources in education are severely stretched. Apparently £50 million pounds will be found for this 'project' which, in my view, could be better spent improving the schools we already have.

The programme also focused on the pressures young people are under and the viewers heard from students who had been through the system. Listening to their stories, I wondered if it is fair to write off children as failures at the age of 11 if they fail the 11 plus and therefore cannot attend the grammar school? Or put GCSE students under such immense pressure to achieve grades to enable them to attend the 6th form of the school they have spent 5 years at already and which would then ask them to leave should they not make those grades?

I would urge you to watch the series and make your own mind up.