Whilst I have done research for this post, a lot of the commentary from this consists of my own views and experiences. Therefore, I decided to provide a bit of background information. So, I attended two grammar schools. One being throughout secondary school, and the other being during sixth form. Now before I allow myself to slag off both these places, it is true that most people there were lovely, while there were many competent, caring and supportive teachers. Nonetheless, I would not be writing this post now if it had not been for the many negative attributes which were rather apparent to myself and others during the time spent in that environment.
What is a Grammar School?
A grammar school is a selective school, which selects people based on their ability to complete an exam, known as the 11+. Currently, there are about 1663 grammar schools in England, compared to around 3000 secondary state schools.
Why go to a Grammar School?
It is easy to understand why many parents would want to send their children to grammar schools, and even why some young people may prefer to be at one compared to the local comprehensive. For a start, the pupils are mixed with people with similar abilities to their own, fostering a more academic and hardworking culture. This should also prevent young people from being bullied for their decision to hopefully work hard. Furthermore, one of the more common arguments put forward in favour of grammar schools is that it enables young and able people from working class backgrounds to access a high standard of education. So, it all sounds fine and dandy then, doesn’t it? Nonetheless, if we delve further into this, we can see how Grammar schools do not necessarily live up to their expectations.
Contrary to the assumption that Grammar schools enable working class children to access better education, leading to a certain leveling out in society, statistics as well as my personal experience will tell you otherwise. For instance, while 15% of children from across the UK are on free school meals, only 2.6% whom go to Grammar schools would be on them. And while you may rightfully contend that this is relating to the underfunding of those comprehensive primary schools which contain a high proportion of children from low-income families, it is also true that often parents who send their children to grammar schools have sufficient money to improve their child’s chances of passing the exam. This shows us that grammar schools alone certainly will not be able to solve the issue relating to lack of resources which prevent young people from reaching their potential.
Putting my personal experience into the equation, I have two things to say really. One, that I do admit to having received private tuition, I which in a way I am grateful for. Yet it obviously raises the question as to whether I would have passed if it had not been for this. It was also very apparent that those who went to my secondary school and sixth form were on average financially better off compared to those who went to my primary school.
A Toxic Environment?
Throughout my time spent at both the schools I attended, I felt as if there was a lot of pressure whilst it was an extremely competitive environment. Consequently, it led to many people feeling bad about themselves, leading to a more unhealthy, toxic and dare I say bitchy environment. I would also say that this amount of pressure certainly had an impact on many people’s mental health, as the feeling was often apparent that if one was not achieving certain grades, then they were not good enough.
Do They Even Work?
Prior to taking any exams, I had always assumed that in the end my grades would be better due to having been to a grammar school. And now having experienced two lots of exam periods (one being odd maybe) and having received two lots of results, I still assumed that this would be the case. Nonetheless, there are studies which have told us otherwise. For example, Kent retains a fully selective education system, nevertheless pupils do no better on average compared to the rest of the UK. While the results attained by those from “backgrounds of social disadvantage” are “markedly worse” than the national average for similar pupils. Inevitably, this would make anyone question not only the fairness, but really the effectiveness of having grammar schools.
So, thank you for reading, and feel free to express any views either for or against grammar schools.
Take care and see you soon