Detour from Scottish politics today as I see the current Westminster government are continuing their attempts to take England back to the 1950s by allowing grammar schools to expand, new ones open and introduce selection. (As if that wasn’t already happening in some Academies.)
I don’t know what it is with governments in that they cannot stop tinkering with the education system. I get the urge to shout “Just leave it alone FFS!” Nothing ever get the chance to bed in to see if there are improvements before the next change is introduced. If it’s not the curriculum, it’s the examinations, or the whole structure on which it based.
As is always the case when discussing the pick n mix bag of English education and its effects on social mobility, I suppose I better declare my own educational history. Due to the quirkiness of the education system in the town where I grew up I did get into a selective school.
[The school was originally set up as a Grammar school and is one again now, but was not in the 1980s. There were 3 local high schools and the top x percent were moved aged 14 for years 4 & 5 with an expectation of staying on for 6th form. No specific test was taken and there certainly was no 11 plus. If there had have been I probably wouldn’t have made it.]
I loved being at that school, I made good frends and it took me away from low-level bullying at my previous school (for being a geek and not swearing – yeah I know!) It allowed me to hide in the crowd rather than being seen as a top performer, which ironically meant my results were probably not as good as they could have been. I was (am?) a lazy student and unless the subject really takes my interest will amble along.
It took me from a working class background and mixed me with children from the middle classes. I was expected to go to university and it was frowned upon that I didn’t immediately go straight after school – but that’s another story. It showed me there were opportunities even if I didn’t have the confidence to take them.
Does this mean I am a fan of the system?
No I am not. EVERY child should have those opportunities; for small class sizes, good teachers (which wasn’t always the case there) and better equipment/facilities.
Education should not be a lottery on where you live and what your background is. This obsession with choice and market forces should not be applied to societal good. I don’t just want my child to go to a good school I want all children to go to a good school.
Unlike Gove I am aware that not all schools can be above average, but I do think the average should be improved. Parents (in general) want a good education for their children and every school needs a few of the “sharp-elbowed” middle classes to push things along.
It’s also good for their children to mix. Look what happens at the other extreme when children are privately educated, go straight to Oxbridge and then into a political party. They wouldn’t know empathy if it ran up and kicked them in the bollocks.
There have been many studies showing grammar schools do not improves social mobility – I don’t see people shouting to bring back Secondary Moderns. Their re-introduction may help a few, but it abandons so many more.