6 November 2008
Meeting with Michael Gove MP, Shadow Education Secretary
A G E N D A
In the run up to the Election, the N.G.S.A. intends to significantly increase its public profile in support of the maintenance of the existing grammar schools, and the creation of new ones in areas where there is an absence of such and a patent parental demand for their provision. The N.G.S.A. is anxious to ascertain the Conservative Party’s position and its likely manifesto on both the principle of differentiated education based on selection and the future of grammar school education.
EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY v. EQUALITY OF RESULT
Teaching by traditional methods we endorse, but that is not the current mode in either the Comprehensives or the Academies. The latter share the experience of the former – a few excellent, the majority sub par.
EQUALITY OF RESULT
BIG SCHOOLS/SMALLER SCHOOLS
Where will the New Heads with the required leadership skills come from? Smaller Schools have lower heads' salaries. Smaller Schools have serious limitations in the range of subjects offered.
The Swedish Experience is unlikely to offer a solution for the inner city schools where current problems are most acute. Sweden is much smaller and less class conscious than Britain. Its essential single class structure offers better discipline and greater pupil respect for adult authority both of teacher and parent.
If these schools are non-selective they will have an all ability intake ranging from those requiring remedial teaching to pupils capable of A star A Level results in the tougher subjects. Leaving size apart, they will be mini comprehensives, albeit with less political control. Comprehensives, to work, require very large schools to cater for the range of abilities that their intake entails.
Almost every virtue claimed for the policy objectives of the Party as set out in the “Repair” document are already to be found in the existing Grammar Schools:-
An ethos of academic and scientific achievement
Will it ensure that in relation to funding per pupil the Grammar
Will it support a policy that compensates the loss of Grammar School places in one area due to falling rolls, with the expansion of existing school places in areas where there is an increasing demand for places, viz. East and West Kent.
Northern Ireland which has a differentiated system of 69 Grammar Schools and Secondary Modern Schools and no independent schools has results the envy of every other part of the United Kingdom. In addition, some 42% of the students it sends to university are from the lower income groups as opposed to the 28% from the same groups sent by the more allegedly egalitarian Comprehensives in England.
It is a matter of some disappointment to the N.G.S.A. that the Conservative Party, faced with the excellent results of the Grammar Schools, has made a virtue out of emphasising the non-selective character of its school proposals. Instead it appears to be adopting the Academy Route chosen by Tony Blair as an escape route from the depressing consequences of comprehensive education. If thought and resources were put into policies for identifying intellectually capable children within the disadvantaged sectors and counselling their parents about the procedures for gaining entrance to selective schools including additional tuition to balance the advantages of middle class children, then social mobility and justice would inevitably follow.
Robert McCartney Q