Grammar schools are “contrary to the notion of the common good”
The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in a House of Lords debate and criticised grammar schools as “contrary to the notion of the common good”. He called for education to focus on “drawing the best out of every person”, rather than a selective approach. Justin Welby mentioned that his own children were state educated, and pointed out that selective systems do not act to help everyone but said: “children of privilege continue to inherit privilege.” Read his speech in full here.
Ofsted ignore selection
Ofsted published its annual report today, and while publishing a great detail of data comparing academy and maintained schools, they completely failed to acknowledge that grammar schools, secondary moderns and comprehensive schools are different types of school. Our recent Freedom Of Information request revealed that Ofsted don’t even note admission differences, let alone report on them. The Department for Education now publish regular statistics for ‘non-selective schools in highly selective areas’ but Ofsted told us they didn’t know about this, and don’t hold information on the ratings for these secondary modern schools.
Imagine being a parent in a selective area like Kent, and Ofsted pointing out that 78% of your areas secondary schools are Good or better, while you know full well that 36 of your county’s 99 schools are out of bounds because they are selective schools. There is no way to know how many Kent secondary moderns are rated Good or better, because Ofsted don’t look at this, and local authorities don’t choose to highlight the often poor ratings of secondary modern schools. In selective areas Ofsted should report on schools available to the majority of pupils, and not include grammar schools which are only available to a minority.
The NEU complain about a grammar stream
The National Education Union lodged a complaint to the Office of the School Adjudicator (OSA) about the ‘grammar stream’ operating at Swindon Academy. This school gives pupils an 11-plus style test then some pupils are segregated from other pupils. The grammar stream pupils are taught together and given a special enrichment program, plus weekly visits to Marlborough College. The OSA ruled that this was not unlawful selection by ability because the test takes place after the school has admitted its pupils. We at Comprehensive Future believe that it is unnecessary and unwise to operate a school in this way. We can see no good reason to create an inflexible divide within a school, or to use a test result to deny some pupils activities and experiences they might benefit from.
Michael Gove praised Swindon Academy’s grammar stream in this week’s Education Questions session. The school has previously been criticised for ‘naming and shaming’ pupils who fall behind in school. It seems the school has now institutionalised its shaming by creating secondary modern and grammar streams within its walls.
The public know grammar schools are no good for social mobility
A Sutton Trust survey showed that the public had little belief in the Conservative party’s plans for new grammar schools. The survey reviewed public opinion on education policies in the general election. Only 8% of respondents thought grammar schools would be good for social mobility, while 47% of the public supported ‘high quality teaching in comprehensive schools’ The research results are here.
The ‘wild west’ of school admissions
Comprehensive Future’s former chair, Fiona Millar, wrote about the ‘gaming’ and chaos of school admissions. She likened admission practices to a ‘wild west’ with schools ignoring school adjudicator rulings and operating with little review. She pointed out that academy schools manage their own admissions, and local oversight is virtually non-existent in areas where academies predominate. Read her excellent piece here.