“I have a five year old who started school last September and the reality of living in an area which maintains a girls’ and a boys’ grammar school is just starting to sink in.We are not from Salisbury and had no reason to understand its schooling system before we moved here but it is very different to what we were both exposed to as children. We were both comprehensive educated children who went to university and gained a lot from our mixed schooling.Salisbury is dominated by CofE schools which seems inexplicable. It leaves parents who care about these things with very little choice. There are very few ‘secular’ schools but we chose to send our son to one. It is an infants’ school but even this still feeds in to a CofE junior school.
This junior school has a very good academic record and in the last year it has become apparent to us that this is clearly based on its perceived ‘success’ in getting children through the 11+ and into the two Grammars. This school streams from it’s first year intake at 7. It is considered to be a ‘crammer for the grammar’. Children are pushed hard and I feel that, consequently, this has a knock on effect even on the infant school, not least because it causes parents to start stressing out about their child’s progress even at Reception stage! I find the whole situation uncomfortable and deeply worrying.
For example, I have frequently heard parents discuss and agree with the streaming of 5 year olds at the infant school my son attends. They believe this will allow ‘the best to progress’ and get through the 11+. Parents also highlight on the children’s faults and abilities in relation to the 11+ e.g. ‘he’s good at reading but not problem solving and he needs to improve if he’s to get through the 11+’. The other high schools are considered to be lower than the low and parents are horrified at the thought their child should attend one – one told me ‘I don’t know what I’ll do if he fails the 11+’ and her child is 6! I also feel that it filters down to teachers who feel they are under pressure to demonstrate ‘progress’ above what is required even by the arbitrary targets they work to.
I feel we suffer the double whammy of faith schools and selection in this area and it alarms me that very few people seem concerned about it. Yet, if these grammars didn’t exist, parents would undoubtedly be much happier and less stressed. It’s an awful situation to be in.”