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Should grammar schools be abolished?



Grammar Schools are a great part of this country. They give those children who are bright, the chance to do something with their brain.
Leon, UK

It is hard to imagine that such an inequitable system still exists in state education. It strikes at the heart of government policy of social inclusion.
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland

Background ¦ Your reaction

The Background:

Sitting an entrance exam to get into a UK state school could become a thing of the past.

Campaigns are being launched against the remaining grammar schools in the UK. Under new rules, opponents can draw up petitions to call for a ballot to abolish selection in their local area.

Those opposed to grammar schools feel the "11-plus" entrance exam that has to be taken to gain entry is unfair and often leads to children having to travel out of their area to attend school.

Paul Mills, a college lecturer and campaigner against grammar schools told the Times newspaper: "The 11-plus is seriously divisive, creating two distinct groups, the able and the less able. It labels people a failure at 11."

However grammar schools are fighting to keep their status, and for those areas where selective education is still going strong, tens of thousands of signatures would be needed to change the system.

Supporters of the grammar say the schools deliver some of the highest standards in the country.

Do you think there is a future for grammar schools in the UK, or should education be equal for all, regardless of ability?

Background ¦ Your reaction

Your Reaction:

Read the first comments we received

Why not try to improve bad schools instead of wrecking good ones?
J, UK

Since the Socialists' cherished economic dogma is now in ideological ruins they have to turn their attention to non-economic targets. They will fail, as the British people, with their underlying common sense, come to realise that the Labour party is completely out of tune with their way of thinking, and kick them out of office.
R Lewin, England

Grammar schools contribute to the "CLASS" system. The Education Institutions need to deliver standards that enable any potential "BRAIN" is given every chance to move through the education system and reach the highest level.
Charles B Hillier, USA

The destruction of Grammar schools is a ludicrous idea, of course it may fit Labour's master political plan, but why make all suffer by destroying standards of education (which at present are very poor to say the least) rather than levelling up to the level of grammar school, where the talent lies.
Tom, Singapore

I had the fortune to win a scholarship to my local grammar school, and the misfortune to win a scholarship to a nearby "public" school (my education would thus be partly paid for by my parents). The standard of teaching at the "public" school varied from the occasionally very good to the not infrequently down-right incompetent. The standard of student also varied from the outstanding scholar, through the competent and the mediocre, to those who did not wish to be there and who frankly impeded peoples' education, and those who would have been better off in an approved school.
My parents made the erroneous assumption that because they were paying directly for a name brand, it would be a better product than that paid for indirectly through taxes. I felt, and was, academically and socially slighted. I was very definitely not taught to the best of my abilities.
I see nothing wrong with grammar schools taking the brightest and the best; I was one of them, and my opportunity was taken away. If I had not been as bright, I was perfectly prepared to go to our local comprehensive school with the rest of my friends. Grammar schools should be retained and encouraged. Comprehensive schools should be improved. As for private schools, you don't always get what you pay for.
Richard Hawes, now resident in Canada,

I believe Grammar Schools should be open to everyone. The whole educational system should be based on making young population educated and ready for the future.
Andrew Turner, Denmark

The concept of having a level playing field is fine, but, why do you need to reduce the standard of the best to produce it?
Donald Campbell, UK

This is taking the politics of envy into the classroom. This government is determined to drag everybody down to the same level of mediocrity. The gifted should be encouraged to use their talents to the fullest. They should not be held back lest they upset their less blessed peers.
Sam Muir, UK

In Japan, each secondary school student is taught the same way, with the same books, with the same exam board. One of the by-products of our complicated and diversified system is that we have different experiences, and different perspectives. Parents, teachers and the government should concentrate on improving all schools by learning from the best, some of which are Grammar Schools.
Dominic, England

This desire to abolish grammar schools is a typical example of Labour rhetoric: achieving equality by "levelling down". Rather than abolishing the best, they should look to introducing grammar/private-school methods and values to the comprehensive sector - starting with the "failing" schools.
Let education become *more* competitive, not less - and let the real failures fail, rather than levelling the whole system down to a point where nobody is seen to fail.
Pete Morgan-Lucas, UK

Absolutely NOT. We should be learning from grammar school education and implementing where possible any positive issues. If given the choice, money aside, Where would you send your child?
Wendy, Scotland

Children, like adults, have good and bad days. If a child fails this exam due to physical or emotional problems on one day of their lives they are labelled a failure, and given a second rate status for the rest of their schooling.
Barrief, UK

I grew up in Northern Ireland which still has the 11 plus as standard. I went to a grammar school and got the best education I could ever have had, free of charge to my parents, who are not well off. The children who do not pass their 11 plus are not written off, as critics of the system like to claim. There is a review at 13, and again at 16 so that late developers can still get into grammar schools if they want to. By the same token, pupils who pass the 11 plus and then don't make the grade get 'removed' as well.
The difference in knowledge between grammar school and comprehensive educated pupils is frightening. I can tell within a few minutes of conversation with someone whether they went to a grammar/private school or not. I would be more in favour of comprehensive education for all if the classes were at least streamed, but in this era of political correctness I fear that doesn't happen in my area. My daughters are both academically gifted and it worries me that they will be consigned to mediocrity because I cannot afford to have them educated privately. Look at the school league tables - the results speak for themselves. Grammar schools work - so why abolish them?
Lorraine Elliott, UK

If grammar schools are abolished this does not necessarily mean that standards will drop or that the brighter students will be disadvantaged. The comprehensive school system can be successful so long as the pupils are streamed into groups that reflect their capabilities. I attended a comprehensive secondary school with a successful streaming process which meant that separate schools are not needed, so that students of different abilities are able to mix outside of class, as well as each child receiving the necessary teaching to reach their capabilities.
The grammar school system tests children at the age of 11, which many feel is too young since other children peak at 15, thus they have the ability to do well in their GCSEs and then go on to A-levels and beyond. The grammar school system can prevent this, so should be abolished, in my opinion.
Bob, UK

I am tired of people claiming that grammar schools are unfair to the less able children. I attended two high schools - one was a "normal" school and one was a school where greater emphasis was placed on academic achievement. At the "normal" school brighter children were ridiculed and bullied, at the more academic school, brighter children were popular and encouraged to pursue their talents.
As an academically inclined student, guess which school I was happier at? Removing grammar schools will not make the school system more equal, it will penalise students who want to work.
Kate, Australian living in the UK

If the government transferred some of the taxes from alcohol and tobacco into education, this question should never arise. Unfortunately, there are more deserving causes for our taxes (such as the millennium dome?) than the education of our children to a high level.
John Churchman, UK/Germany

This debate really comes down to just one point: Don't we all deserve to have the same chances? Why should children be condemned to a mediocre education simply because they failed one test at the age of 11? Ridiculous. In a sensibly streamed Comp school each and every pupil would have the chance to succeed in their field of expertise or interest. As a former Grammar School pupil I believe there is a better way. Don't dismiss it as "Socialist patter" but look at the real issue.
Michelle, UK

My elder sister and younger brother both attended the top Grammar school in our area after passing the 11+ whilst I attended the best 'Secondary Modern'. I was happy to go to my school as many of my friends from primary school were going with me. I never felt like a failure because I received exactly the same support, nagging and encouragement that my siblings received and was encouraged in my extra curricular activities. Despite the alleged difference in our secondary education we each attained the same standard of degree (BA Hons, Upper Second class) and my parents are strangely proud of their 'rogues gallery' of three graduation portraits!
Roz, UK

In a meritocratic society the school system should encourage competition and diversity. I went through direct-grant grammar school and Oxford, and I can assure you all that there was a wide range of ability in both institutions.
What matters is that quality education should be available to youngsters from less well-off families. How this is achieved depends on the politicians, but definitely the slide towards private fee-paying schools being the only provider of quality, is an unmitigated disaster for Britain.
Mark Heyne, Oman

The greatest blind spot in the Labour Party's ideology lies in its outlook on education. The very notion that abolishing grammar schools will somehow equalise society is the complete opposite of reality. Grammar schools have traditionally been the route to success for working class children, and like it or not comprehensives have not provided the same opportunity except in a small number of cases. Abolish grammar schools and bright middle-class youngsters will go to fee paying schools, which now sadly can no longer offer places to poorer families because of the abolition of the assisted places scheme.
Hence the policy will succeed only in polarising the haves and have-nots to an even greater degree than they already are. Why can politicians not look at the evidence: grammar schools WORK - for all classes of children, so let them be and concentrate in getting other schools up to the same standards. Not, as has happened, levelling down.
Les Padfield, UK

Diversity in education is essential, everyone is different we must culture this. We don't want educational clones do we? Teaching should cater for the student not statistics in government.
Egrog, UK

I have worked in a variety of countries over the last 30 years of my career. In all, I have found a recognition that some children are more talented or can realise their talents better than others. To capitalise and benefit from these gifted children, the country realised it had to create the environment in which their talents flourished.
Comprehensive education has delivered over the last 30 years mediocrity in the UK -- an entirely predictable result. The demise of the grammar school will simply result in the further demise of the UK's ability in the future, to compete for business in an increasingly competitive and unforgiving world. Though unfashionable to say, Darwin got it right - tomorrow's survivors will be the educationally strong.
Robert Evans, UK

I would just like to ask all those people that wish to jeopardise my career as a student why on earth they would want to make everyone, no matter what ability 'the same, stereotypical school boy/girl.' When I was in Junior education between 7 and 11 years of age I was quite happy but as I got into my final years there I grew increasingly distressed that many of my classmates were less able than I. That put a strain on my education, and I found it harder to learn because my teachers thought that I would be fine with most work so they ALWAYS helped the less able children.
Now that I have entered grammar school education, I find it a lot easier to learn, a lot easier to ask questions etc. I find it amazing that anyone would want to abolish the type of education that gives more able children like myself a better chance to excel in school work but also this type of education helps me a lot more as teachers have time to listen to everyone because we are all of roughly the same ability so no one person needs excessive help.
Richard Johnson, 13 years old in Grammar School Education, England

As a successful product of the 11 plus UK educational system, I state that with 31 years of college teaching experience, that you can not sacrifice the smart students education simply to prevent the humiliation of those that do not wish to learn. It seems to me that the minorities and ethnics in America and England who live on Government handouts want to bring everyone down to their level. Some people will be leaders some will be followers, both are needed
Al Yendall, USA

Grammar schools are new to me. We have private schools in Taiwan, but we don't get people to vote to decide its future. I guess the question whether they should be abolished based on the best interests of the students, their parents, and the general public. I will keep tuning into the news about it.
Yang Kao-ming, Taiwan

Children of 10 show huge variations in ability - would the country benefit more from 10% achieving excellence, or 100% achieving mediocrity ?
Anne, England

Surely kids should be able to go to whichever school will suit their needs? For some that will be a grammar school. The only justification for destroying the wide variety of schooling available would be if children were all the same, and that's one thing they will never be.
Andrea, UK

In 1976, I sat the 11 plus and passed it. But the then Labour government was blackmailing LEAs to change to the comprehensive system. (This was done by reducing funding to grammar or former grammar schools). The school I sat the 11 plus for was in the LEA across the road from me. The boundary was literally in the middle of the road. My LEA refused to pay for me to go to a grammar school.
So I went to the local comprehensive. I was the best girl at maths in my year so I worked for the first five minutes of a maths lesson and then sat bored for the rest of the lesson. I was bored in science classes. Literally I vegetated.
However most of my friends were in the CSE classes. I watched them for 5 years being treated as second class pupils. Outings were arranged for 'O' level pupils and not them. When they complained, the day trip for them was eventually taken over by the 'O' Level pupils. I think they would have preferred just to be told one day they haven't passed an exam.
So for whose benefit is the comprehensive system? I couldn't see any benefit to anybody except maybe 2 pupils out of 150.
Sandra Irwin, Britain

I went to a normal state comprehensive school with a broad range of abilities there was streaming and I feel that mixing with a wide varieties of abilities helped me socially. Having never been through a grammar system I can't imagine the possible benefits over a mixed ability school with proper streaming. What does confuse me is why there should be different systems in different parts of the country, surely one system for the whole country would be more sensible.
Mike, UK

The value of human life should not be measured by intelligence and the ability to comprehend; rather through the ability of humans to connect with one another without the sense of pride and arrogance that comes from superior exclusivity.
We have more to learn from each other than knowledge; Grammar Schools breed "blue-eyed boys" whose lives are committed to selfish pursuit.(My opinion). As a white South African I have come to hate any system that promotes exclusivity as to my shame I was part of the Apartheid regime. Let's discover one another without structures that breed superior human race.
C. Mercer, South Africa

Out of Country, out of order? Who cares? I went to an English Grammar School and probably would not have succeeded in a comprehensive school because I would have surely succumbed to the often mentioned negative peer pressures of the ignorant (in a minority perhaps but nonetheless powerful). Socialist governments love to dismantle but often do not think through the consequences. Almost always the follow-up action plans seem to smack of flying by the seat of the pants. Just for fun Mr. Blair why not start with Eaton, Harrow and Charterhouse.......too much influence and money to protect them?....I guess so...better stick with the get rid of the GS's! Ignore the fact that they are probably the best Schools in the land_entry based on intelligence rather than Pater or Mater's pocket book. By the way competition and choice are fundamental to the evolution of life. Let us not be conceited enough to isolate ourselves from this notion.
Dave Colwell, Canada

As with so many political issues, it is all back to front. Set up some better schools for everyone first, then come back and talk about abolishing the Grammar Schools. Why bring everyone down to the lowest level, when the target should be to raise everyone to the highest? Socialism is a dead ideology reserved for a few fools and die-hards, along with its big brother communism. Tony Blair seems to be a big enough man to realise this and I had dared to dream that he would adapt his party to the real world. I hope a lot of tired old has-beens do not pull him back into the mire of theoretical socialism, through espousing such idiotic isues as abolishing things like grammar schools, public schools, hunting, the peerage, the monarchy and just about everything that the great unwashed can't have!
Mohamed Iskandar, Malaysia

An extremely important point that became apparent in the news recently, was that Comprehensives are focusing on their brightest pupils to attain five A* to C grades n GCSE's, to fare in league tables. Surely, every child deserves to have an education tailored to their individual needs. Taking away the choice of Grammar schools would exacerbate the problem within Comprehensives, leaving less able pupils even less well catered for. There needs to be a tiered system within Comprehensives' to deal with ability at all subjects, but leave Grammar schools alone. They are institutions of excellence. In Plymouth there are good Comprehensives' and Grammar schools, which gives people the choice of education they deserve.
Kathy, England

When I was 16 I transferred from a secondary modern school to a grammar to study for my 'A' levels. At my new school, as I was quietly settling in, a number of gifted ones came over to tell me that they didn't like the fact that "outsiders" from "backward schools like mine" came in because "the disruption of having us around spoiled their sense of union." (?) Needless to say I'm glad I failed my 11+ exam.
Louise, UK

I want to know why grammar schools are still around, I think if labour would have had its way 20 years away we would not have so much inequality amongst children today
Matthew Boyles, UK

I attended a grammar school. I did achieve well and now attend university. However, it is there that I have found that the system is not necessarily a good preparation for life. We are blessed with so many abilities and academic success is just a small part of that. If a comprehensive school is run well, it will stretch those children who are particularly able at a specific subject. There is no need to physically divide children of different abilities by sending them to entirely different schools. Besides, how can an exam at the age of eleven test your abilities at all subjects and take account of the development taking place at adolescence. Grammar schools only lead to prejudice and a very narrow view of the world.
Susan, England

Leaving aside for now the fact that education should not be in the hands of the state, I must say that I am not surprised by this latest bit of bureaucratic nonsense for our government bearing in mind that Tony must, occasionally, throw a sop to the old left. This is one such sop. Equality is not possible and, even if it were possible, it is not desirable. The desire to abolish grammar schools is more about political posturing than any benefits to children or advances in education neither of which will be achieved by creating a system of Sovietised moron factories. If successful it will result in wealthier parents making a headlong rush to get their children into private schools where they can rub shoulders with the offspring of so many socialist politicians
David J.K. Carr, England

I have one child at a grammar school and one child who went to the local comprehensive. My eldest in no way feels a failure because she didn't pass the 11 plus, and did well at school for her capabilities, and the youngest would not be doing anything like the standard of work she is now if she wasn't at a grammar school. It makes my blood boil that people who have benefited from the system want to stop others benefiting now. Children are not all the same. We are not all capable of being brain surgeons and education should reflect this. And before any successful school is abolished, get the other ones up to scratch first. However, I really can't see the likelihood of that.
H. Fryer, UK

I go to a local grammar school and I have always wanted to. Comprehensives cannot be comprehensive as they do not have the facilities to teach kids who are at the higher and lower ends of the spectrum adequately. Trying to do so would fail and therefore waste school resources and a growing young mind. Kids should be taught to the best of there ability, not that that is decreed as average. After all, we are all unique.
Michael, age 14, UK

We are not born equal - our education system is generally failing us the only area of success seems to be the Grammar Schools - why penalise these institutions to please a political point?
Liz Slinger, UK/US

Why not abolish the comprehensives instead ? I thought schools were meant to be about EDUCATING children to the highest standard , something that grammar schools are very good at . Comprehensives offer a very poor alternative as league tables show .
Walter Innit, UK

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01 Sep 99 | Education
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06 Aug 99 | Education
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The Education (Grammar School Ballots) Regulations 1998

Campaign for State Education: Say no to selection


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