Living in a selective county for education, the current furore over Theresa May’s plans for extending grammar schools is particularly pertinent.
The question as to whether grammar schools are right or wrong isn’t really the point though.
All children should have equal priority with regard to their educational opportunities and like it or not, the different options are out there and will remain so – everything from home schooling, independents, grammars, academies, free schools and the good old comprehensives.
Trying to pigeon hole children into a system that isn’t right for the individual is crass and detrimental. As two school governors, we have witnessed those children who are “hot housed” early in primary to be ready for the 11+ exam, and those whose parents feel that the school, whether primary or secondary, has the main responsibility for turning their charges into compassionate, well rounded citizens, and all parental involvement in the process is abdicated.
It really is horses for courses! Some children thrive in a highly academic climate; others find their achievements on the sports field, in the artistic arena or dare I say, by being hard working, solid individuals who plug away and whilst never likely to set the world afire, are the mainstay of local communities. Some are child geniuses; some are academically accomplished and succeed at their chosen profession early. But let’s not forget that some individuals blossom late – they may well be into their middle years before they find their true vocation. It doesn’t make them any less worthy of success and fulfilment.
Children whatever their ability, their talent or their capacity for learning should be given an equal chance to shine. So yes, if grammar school is the answer for them, it should be an option. However spending weeks or months in preparation in order to be able to pass the 11+ isn’t the answer. If you can’t answer the questions without coaching, then in all likelihood your time at school will be spent always trying to keep up with the others. That is not the best way to inspire a child to learn and succeed.
Perhaps all children should sit the grammar school entrance exam and those that make the grade, offered a place. What is perhaps more important though is those that don’t, are not then seen to be “second class” in their educational requirements.
So grammar schools are not the scourge of the educational system, nor are they the pinnacle of learning that many parents and politicians believe.
The critical ingredient in the discussion is the individual child. So let’s provide happy, exhilarating, inspirational learning environments whatever the chosen establishment, to entitle our children to become what every parent truly aspires to – a happy, well rounded, well educated, compassionate individual who contributes to society and has values to be honoured and respected whatever their background or whatever school tie they wore.