I did not understand what selection was until I heard other mothers arguing about it

Gloucester has two Boys Grammar Schools, 11-18 (4-form entry) and two Girls Grammar Schools, 11-18 (4-form entry). There are five other schools, two 11-18 ‘Comprehensives’ and three 11-16 ‘Comprehensives’.  Two of the 11-16 ‘Comprehensives’ are continually in and out of Special Measures.  One of them, Central Technical College, is due to be run by a private company next September.

Each November, Gloucester parents are given a complicated application form.  There are three choices; the first is that they can apply for their children to enter an exam for entry to any of the Grammar Schools.  Second choice is they can choose to send their children to one of the higher performing comprehensive Schools in the County of Gloucester.  These are all outside the 3-mile zone so the cost of transport is borne by the parents.  The third choice is that they can opt to apply to one of the five inner city schools.  Parents of children on free school meals invariably take this option.

We are campaigners against selection. Here are two letters from Gloucester city parents, sent to us:

1. I did not understand what ‘selection’ was until I heard the other mothers arguing about it.  I know all about it now.  The Head Teacher at the Junior School said my son was ‘borderline’.  He might just pass to go one of the two Boys Grammar Schools.  Other parents told me not to waste my time.  Only 50% of the places went to Gloucester children.  Parents from Cheltenham and the Cotswolds pay for special lessons for their children to pass the exam.

2. My son was allocated a place at the Central Technical College.  I checked into its record.  It has been in and out of special measures twice in the last five years.  50% of the intake are children with special needs.  I decided to send him to Newent Comprehensive.  It is 8 miles out into the County.  The bus fares are really expensive, but at least it is a good comprehensive. Our son loves football and is playing for the school.  The problem is that if he plays a game he does not get back to the school until 6 p.m.  My husband and I don’t get back from work until then.  It is a 45 minute drive to the School at Newent, so we have had to stop him from playing football.  He is very upset.  We really do need a good local comprehensive in Gloucester.”