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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Education - the end of comprehensives?
The comprehensive schools system in England will be broken up if Labour wins another term in office with its plans for more diverse secondary schools.
The Conservatives support abolishing the comprehensive system and have promised schools will be able to opt out to become selective grammar schools. The Liberal Democrats say abolishing comprehensives is selection by the back door and say there should be diversity within schools not between them.
What do you think about the future of secondary education? Does the end of comprehensives mean more or less selection for children?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
My view is to make the user pay. It's done for motoring why not schooling. The argument is largely irrelevant, however, because the Lib-Dems haven't got a hope of gaining power
As a student who has recently come through the education system, I can clearly say that discipline in schools is in dire straights. Classes were constantly being interrupted by disruptive students refusing to do work, not being bothered about school, being noisy, and generally being quite abusive to others. I certainly think that a more direct form of punishment should be introduced, for example community service so these pupils give something back to the community and are punished. I also think that if they constantly fail to produce the work they are capable of, they should be held back a year. The thought of more years at school would provide some motivation I think.
David Griffiths (18), Preston, UK
School exclusions have only dropped because of the massive fine imposed on schools for each pupil they exclude!
You are never going to get any sort of decent education system for all while those in power can send their children to private/public schools. They have no great interest in improving the system because they don't use it.
If you want a decent education system for all the only way is to abolish private education. Just think of how many teachers that would free up.
The real issue facing education at the moment is a chronic lack of teachers. When the Times Educational Supplement carries 5 sections per week just of job adverts amounting to over a thousand pages, the claim that their is no crisis is a laughable as it is lamentable. Instead of debating the niceties of specialist schools, we need to address the problem of why teachers are leaving the profession in droves.
Comprehensive schools only work in middle class areas where the number of disruptive pupils is small enough to be assimilated. I know, because I have taught in every type of school from private, grammar, and secondary modern to a sink comprehensive. The bright working class child has no chance to shine in a neighbourhood comprehensive with no work ethic.
Peter Worsley, Cheltenham, England
The problem with comprehensives is that they takes little account of differing
abilities. The problem with grammars is that they work by dumping the
less-able. What if all schools were to do that?. The problem with (proper) streaming
within schools is that it is potentially a lot more costly.
The goal of comprehensives was laudable but all they succeeded in doing was dragging everyone down to the lowest common denominator unless schools implemented streaming - selection in itself. I for one won't be sorry to see comprehensives go.
Paul R, Oxford, UK
I have put 4 children through the school process. Two were academic and went on to University.
Two were practical. They had no benefit from their last two years at school, they were bored and often in trouble. As soon as they left school they changed. One trained to become a dedicated chef, the other a highly skilled welder.
Currently, schools cannot deal effectively with children who are not academic. There is no place for children who are naturally practical and like doing and making. What has happened to comprehensive education when it is almost purely academic and hardly practical?
My research for Phil Willis, Lib Dem Education Spokesperson, showed that most specialist schools are in advantaged social areas. The Liberal Democrats want to see all schools be funded to the extent that specialist schools are. Phil always says "I want to see 100% of schools specialist", that's to say the Lib Dems want fairer funding between schools. Moreover, from my research I would say that it is clearly important that we address the location of specialist schools. In conclusion, we need fairer funding between schools and diversity within schools.
Having done extremely well at GCSE (7 A*, 3A) my daughter has now gone into this horrendous new system for A levels which requires them to do 4-5 subjects in the first year.
Once more the emphasis is on quantity - the stress levels are horrendous. Yet despite her obviously high achievement levels she is not being given any 'special treatment' that BBC correspondents speak of with such certainty.
To my mind the main danger is that our education system puts considerably too much pressure on our young people. Attempts at 'breadth' in the curriculum are also at the cost of extra-curricular activities.
The anti-selection argument is wrong. All schools are selective - comprehensives select by postcode, whereas grammar schools select by ability. Individualism is regarded as unfair only by equality obsessed Socialists, concerned solely with "elitism", yet missing the point that the comprehensive postcode lottery is based upon parental ability to pay for a home on the "right side of town", whilst grammar schools offer opportunity for all. In education, as in all policy areas, Labour is far too concerned with equality at the expense of the real issue - quality. Perhaps that is because Blair knows he will always fail on quality.
Dan, Folkestone, England
I don't think that grammar & secondary modern schools have made any significant difference over the last 20 yrs. My 11 yr old daughter has opted not to take the 11+; however there is a very good grant maintained school, which she will be going to in September. I think it is more important to ensure children are motivated, whatever school they go to.
In short, don't write someone off because they fail an exam, it does not mean they will fail to have a decent career!
If one looks at value added measures one cannot do otherwise than to conclude that there is no consistent benefit to children in a selective system. All other factors being equal, the children who are successful in selective schools will be so in non-selective schools. What matters in allowing each child to reach his or her potential is the quality of the school and of the teaching.
Mark, London, UK
The problem with having specialist schools in country areas is that, because of the transport problems, many families really have no choice as to which secondary school to send their children. In effect, it is only the better off who have a choice. Every Comprehensive school should provide excellence in all subjects.
My view is that the reason for the present school system is purely political. In the old school system different people were at different stages of education but in the present system everyone is at the same stage and the government set a standard for children that would look good to voters.
Labour historically have clung to their dogmatic vision which would not allow any sort of selection. That has given us the flawed Comprehensive system where all pupils perform poorly. The Tories on the other hand have dogmatically stuck to their vision of the eleven-plus based Grammar schools, an elitist system where the best pupils are cherry-picked and given a gold-plated education while the rest are left to rot. Both of these failed dogmas need to be abandoned if we are ever to improve education for all in this country.
John Haywood, London
A comprehensive schooling system is the only system to deliver the education of young people. Selection is elitism, and must be disregarded for many reasons. It has detrimental effects on children not considered "gifted" They are at risk of being given a poor education, whilst special treatment is given to the minority of top class students. Those who suggest any such dangerous changes obviously have not evaluated the present equal opportunities comprehensive system. Those who oppose equality in any institution are dinosaurs, and their ideas are fast becoming an extinct minority.
I don't feel abolishing the comprehensives would benefit all children. Grammar schools may have been beneficial to me but my brother would have lost out educationally as he is severely dyslexic, and would never have made it into grammar school, although he is an intelligent as I am. He has 9 good GCSE's and 4 A levels, and is now at university. This would not have happened, if he had been in a selective system - at 11 or 13 he could not have passed any sort of entrance exam.
I feel comprehensive system on the whole works, although more attention is needed both for those pupils of high ability, and those with special needs.
The government's position on selection is muddled, confused and hypocritical. They say they wish to allow comprehensive schools to select some of their pupils yet they introduced legislation in this parliament attacking the popular and successful grammar schools that remain in England. This was done by a prime minister who himself went to a selective private school and sends his children to a selective religious school. The next government should give state schools the freedom enjoyed by the independent sector. Parents should be able to choose schools, schools to select pupils and good and popular schools should be allowed to expand.
Chris, Cheltenham, UK
We should be proud of comprehensive schools and build upon their existing, underlying strengths.
I am certain that teachers and parents alike will always be interested in any improvements that can be made, but 'sloganising' in an attempt to capture the minds of certain groups of parents is a mere diversion.
Bring back grammar schools and get rid of GCSEs. Why on earth should the education system pretend that everyone 'succeeds'?
Also, provide special needs education for gifted children. They really miss out in comprehensives and do not get to develop their abilities.
Abolishing comprehensives would benefit all our students. The more able will be able to learn more quickly and the less able will be able to be taught at their own level and will leave school both more educated and more confident.
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