Grammar Schools – Arguments For and Against

Grammar schools have been in the news this week – Theresa May’s plans to reintroduce grammar schools is actually one of the most unpopular policies in her party  but despite this opposition, and more opposition from nearly everyone who knows anything about education, she seems hell-bent on bringing the grammar school back into the state system, so it looks like we’re going back to selective state education.

Hands up – I went to a state grammar school in Kent – so I’m a living, breathing example of someone from a working class background who benefited from a state-grammar education.

And get  this for a ‘school motto’ – ‘Knowledge is a steep which few may climb, while duty is path which all must tread’ (talk about hegemonic!) 

Despite appreciating the leg-up, I’m not so sure it’s a good idea to expand grammar schools nation wide, despite widespread parental support for the policy.

What are grammar schools?

In short, they are schools which focus on providing an academic education based on selection by ability, typically through an entrance test at the age of 11.

The term ‘scholas grammaticales’ was first use in the 1500s when monarchs, nobles and merchants founded schools for ‘poor scholars’. In Tudor times, pupils were taught to read and speak Latin by learning classical texts from heart. School days spanned from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and boys caught speaking in English were punished.

The big expansion of grammar schools came with the 1944 Butler Education Act, which launched the tripartite system – every pupil sat an IQ test at the age of 11 which determined which of three types of school they went to for the next 4-5 years –

  • Grammar schools were established for those ‘interested in learning for its own sake’
  • Technical schools for those ‘whose abilities lie markedly in the field of applied science or art’
  • Secondary modern schools for those who ‘deal more easily with concrete things and ideas’.

There was supposed to be ‘parity of esteem’ between these three types of school – which means difference but equal in principle.

How successful was the system?

Basically it was great if you were one of the 20% pupils who made it into a grammar school,  which tended to have a public school type ethos and prepared students for ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels, there is also  a commonly held view that these schools offered a ‘ladder of opportunity’ to bright, working class students, although this may be a comforting myth, rather than the reality (see below).

On balance, there seem to be more failings of the tripartite system:

  1. There was no parity of esteem because the secondary moderns were poorly resourced and pupils were taught a watered down curriculum.
  2. The system branded anyone who attended a secondary modern as a failure from the age of 11.
  3. The 11+ didn’t measure intelligence – it was easy to coach children to get higher scores, which benefited the middle classes.
  4. There was no equality of opportunity – In the 1940s and 50s few secondary modern pupils took public exams and when they started to take them, they were typically limited to CSE exams rather than O levels.

Why was the Tripartite System Abolished?

The county of Leicestershire was the first to experiment with a new comprehensive system in 1957, to placate the parents of children who had failed the 11+, and by the late 1950s, there was mounting evidence that the 11+ was a flawed measure of intelligence and that secondary moderns provided a sub-standard of education.

In 1965 the then Labour government issued a circular requesting that all Local Education Authorities abolish  the 11+ and move to a non-selective, comprehensive system – effectively meaning they had to abolish grammar and secondary moderns and establish comprehensives.

However, it was only in 1976 that Labour brought in an education act that formally required all counties to go fully Comprehensive.

How did some grammar schools survive? 

Some local authorities dragged their feet and clung on until the Tory election victory of 1979, when Thatcher repealed the 1976 act. England today has 164 state grammar schools – Kent is one of the few which is wholly selective.

Arguments for reintroducing grammar schools 

  1. Proponents say they will provided a ladder of opportunity for poor, bright kids.
  2. Possibly the best argument – we’d see the withering away of private schools – whose going to pay £10K a year when you can get a similar quality of education for free?
  3. Comprehensives are not good enough – we need more, quality education to prepare our brightest kids to compete in a global job market.
  4. We already have selection by mortgage, grammar schools may help remedy this.
  5. There is strong parental support for more grammars.

Arguments against grammar schools

  1. Number 1 is a myth – the reason so many bright working class kids seemed to benefit from a grammar school education in the 1960s was because of a change in the class structure at that time – basically the decline of working class jobs and the increase in middle class jobs meant there was more opportunity to go up the class ladder. This no longer applied.
  2. It’s unfair on those who don’t get into them.
  3. The 11+ favours those who can afford private tuition – so all we’re going to see is the reproduction of class inequality, then again, if we have quotas, this may not be the case (fat chance of that actually happening fairly though?)
  4. Standards are currently improving, so do we need to disrupt schools AGAIN with ANOTHER policy upheaval?

 

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Selection Policies in Education

Selection Policies in Education

This brief hand-out addresses looks at recent waves of education policy and asks two questions:

1. How do schools select pupils? (ability, aptitude, faith, catchment area, covert selection and social class)

2. What are the effects of selection on equality of educational opportunity? (basically selection seems to benefit the middle classes)

The 1944 Education Act

The 1944 Education act is a good example of a policy which selected students for different types of school by ability

The 1944 Education Act established three types of secondary school – Grammar, Technical and Secondary Modern. The three schools provided different types of education –

Grammar schools provided an academic education – all students would be entered for the new ‘O’ levels at age 15. 15 -20% of pupils attended grammar schools.

Technical schools provided a more vocational education – only about 5% of schools were technicals and they eventually faded out.

Secondary Moderns provided a more basic education, and pupils were not expected to sit exams. 80% of pupils attended these schools.

It was thought at the time that pupils had a certain level of ability which was fixed at age 11, and so a special Intelligence Quotient (I.Q.) test was designed to select which type of school different abilities of student would go into. Those who passed the 11+ went to grammar schools, those who failed went to secondary moderns.

Criticisms of the 1944 Education Act

– Pupil’s ‘intelligence level’ was not fixed at 11, ‘late developers’ missed out on the opportunity to get into a grammar school and sit exams.

– Those who attended secondary moderns were effectively labelled as failures.

– The system led to the reproduction of class inequality – typically middle class students passed the 11+ and went to grammar schools, got qualifications and higher paid jobs, and vice-versa for the working classes.

Comprehensive Schools

Introduced in 1965 Comprehensive Schools meant the he abolition of the 11+, and the end of grammar schools and secondary Moderns.

In 1965 the 11+ and the three types of school above were abolished, and so selection by ability at the age of 11 was effectively abolished too – grammar schools and secondary moderns were replaced by ‘comprehensive schools” – which means there is ‘one of type’ of school for all pupils, and these schools are not allowed to select by ability – they are forbidden from doing so by ‘The Schools Admissions Code’

Today, although many schools are called ‘Academies’ or ‘Free Schools’ or ‘Faith Schools’, they are all effectively comprehensives, and so do not select on the basis of ability.

Selection Policies since the 1988 Education Act

The 1988 Education Act introduced open enrolment – in which parents are allowed to apply for a place in any school in any area. A a result the best schools become over-subscribed, which means popular schools have to have policies in place to select students. The Schools Admissions Code states that schools cannot select on the basis of social class, but covert selection means that they often do just this!

Selection policies in oversubscribed schools

If a school is oversubscribed then pupils are selected on the basis of certain criteria, whicih much comply with the School Admission Code. The following are the most commonly used criteria for selecting students:

1. Selection by Catchment Area – the closer a student lives to the school, the more likely they are to get into the school.

2. Sibling Policies – those with brother’s and sisters who already attend the school are more likely to get a place

3. Selection by Faith – this only applies to faith schools – faith schools may select a proportion (but not all) of their pupils on the basis of religious belief and the commitment of their parents (how often they attend church for example).

4. Selection By Aptitude – where pupils are selected on the basis of their ‘aptitude’ in certain subjects. Most schools today are ‘Specialist schools’ – which means they ‘specialise’ in a certain subject and are allowed to select up to 10% of their pupils on the basis of their aptitude in a certain subject.

Criticisms of Admissions and Selection Policies since 1988

One major criticism of selection by catchment area is that this results in selection by mortgage – the house prices near to the best schools increase, and so over the years, only wealthier parents can afford to move into the catchment areas of the best schools.

Tough and Brooks (2007) use the term ‘covert selection’ to describe the process whereby schools try to discourage parents from lower socio-economic backgrounds from applying by doing such things as making school literature difficult to understand, having lengthy application forms, not publicising the school in poorer neighbourhoods, and requiring parents to buy expensive school uniforms. The end result of this is that middle class parents are more likely to apply for the best schools (because they have sufficient cultural capital to be able to complete the application process) and lower class parents are pushed out of the best (oversubscribed) schools.

Selection since 2010 – The Pupil Premium

One recent policy change which encourages schools to select disadvantaged pulses on the basis of low household income is the Pupil Premium – schools selecting these pupils get an extra £600 per year per student. NB This represents a recent modification to the school’s selection code, and is one of the few elements of selection policy which may do something to reduce inequality in education, rather than increase it!

Finally – Don’t forget Independent Schools

It’s worth mentioning that 7% of children attend independent, or fee paying schools – many of these schools will have admissions tests (like to old grammar schools) but of course selection is initially based on the ability of parents to pay – and the most expensive schools in the country cost in excess of £30K a year in fees.

Globalisation and Education

Globalisation refers to the increasing interconnectedness between societies across the globe.

Globalisation and Education

There are many dimensions to globalisation:

Economic globalisation is the globalisation of trade, production and consumption. Most of what we consume in the UK is produced and manufactured abroad, for example, often through Transnational Corporations, or companies which operate in more than one country, such as Shell. As a result of globalisation we have seen a decline in manufacturing jobs in recent years, because these have moved abroad (to countries such as China) and most jobs in the UK are now in the service and leisure sectors.

Cultural Globalisation refers to the increasingly rapid spread of ideas and values around the globe. This is mainly brought about as a result of the growth of ICT – communications technology which makes it possible to communicate with people in other countries instantaneously. Cultural globalisation includes everything from the spread of music and fashion and consumer products and culture to the spread of political and religious ideas.

– Increasing migration is also part of globalisation – with more people moving around the globe for various reasons. Sometimes this is voluntary, with people moving abroad for work or education, other times it is involuntary – as is the case with refugees from conflicts or climate disasters. As a result of increasing immigration, the UK is now a much more mulitcultural society than in the 1950s.

What are the consequences of globalisation for Education in the UK?

1. Increased competition for jobs abroad meant the New Labour government increased spending on education in order to try and give children skills to make them more competitive in a global labour market. New Labour wanted 50% of children to enter Higher Education, although this goal was never achieved.

2. Part of economic globalisation is the establishment of global ICT companies such as Google and Apple. These powerful institutions are now involved in writing curriculums, and online learning materials for various governments around the world. Thus education is increasingly shaped by Transnational Corporations, who make a profit out of providing these services to government. If you have an exam with the edexcell exam board for example, that would have been written by Pearsons (along with your text book), a global corporation.

3. Increasing migration has meant education is now more multicultural – all schools now teach about the ‘six world religions’ in RE, and we have many faith schools in the UK serving Muslim and Jewish students. In more recent years schools have had to respond to increasing numbers of Polish children entering primary and secondary schools.

4. Increasing cultural globalisation challenges the relevance of a ‘National Curriculum’ – what is the place of the Nation State and the idea of a ‘national curriculum’ if we live in an increasingly global culture. It also challenges what type of history and literature we should be teaching.

5. Finally, the growth of global ICT companies and global media more generally challenges the authority of traditional schooling and possibly teachers. What role does a traditional school model have when you can get all your information for free on YouTube, the Student Room and so on….

Revision notes on globalisation…

If you like this sort of thing and want some more context on globalisation, then you might like these revision notes on globalisation, specifically designed for A-level sociology. 

Globalisation coverNine pages of summary notes covering the following aspects of globalisation:

– Basic definitions and an overview of cultural, economic and political globalisation
– Three theories of globalisation – hyper-globalism, pessimism and transformationalism.
– Arguments for and against the view that globalisation is resulting in the decline of the nation state.
– A-Z glossary covering key concepts and key thinkers.

Five mind-maps covering the following:

– Cultural, economic, and political globalisation: a summary
– The hyper-globalist view of globalisation
– The pessimist view of globalisation
– The transformationalist/ postmodernist view of globalisation.
– The relationship between globalisation and education.

These revision resources have been designed to cover the globalisation part of the global development module for A-level sociology (AQA) but they should be useful for all students given that you need to know about globalistion for education, the family and crime, so these should serve as good context.

They might also be useful to students studying other A-level or first year degree subjects such as politics, history, economics or business, where globalisation is on the syllabus.

Postmodern and Late Modern Views of Education – A Summary

The Postmodernist View of Education 

  • Postmodernists stand against universalising education systems – it there is no one truth, then it is not appropriate to have a one size fits all education system.
  • Modernist education is oppressive to many students – students give up their freedom for 11 years in order to learn knowledge which will improve their life chances – this does not work for everyone.
  • Ideas of education which fit with a postmodern agenda include –
  1. Home Education
  2. Liberal forms of education (Summerhill School)
  3. Adult Education and Life Long Learning (because adults can make more of a choice)
  4. Education outside of formal education (leisure)

The Late-Modernist View of Education

  • At an Institutional level education (mainly schools) become a fundamental part of the reflexive institutional landscape of Post-Fordist late-modernity
  • Education policy is one of the things which the New Right and New Labour governments can and have used to ‘colonise the future’ by (a) providing opportunities for reskilling in an ever changing global labour market and (b) to keep under surveillance students ‘at risk’ of future deviance.

Free Schools – Arguments and Evidence For and Against

 

This is relevant to the educational policy aspect of the education topic within the sociology of education.

What Are Free Schools?

A Free School in England is a type of Academy, a non-profit-making, state-funded school which is free to attend. Free schools are not controlled by a Local Authority (LA) but instead governed by anon-profit charitable trust.

To set up a Free School, founding groups submit applications to the Department for Education. Groups include those run by parents, education charities and religious groups. Ongoing funding is on an equivalent basis with other locally controlled state maintained schools, although additional start-up grants to establish the schools are also paid.

Between 2010 and 2015 more than 400 free schools were approved for opening in England by the Coalition Government, representing more than 230,000 school places across the country.

Similarities between Local Authority schools and Free Schools

  • They are both free for students to attend

  • They are both have similar amounts of funding

  • They are both subject to same rules about how the select students (they have similar admissions policies)

  • They are both subjected to Ofsted inspections

Differences between Free Schools and Regular State Schools

Local Authority Schools

Free Schools

Must follow the National Curriculum

Don’t have to follow the National Curriculum

Funding controlled by Local Authority

Funding comes straight from government

‘standard’ school day and term times

Free to set school days and term times

Teachers must be qualified

Teachers don’t have to be qualified

A brief history and overview of types of Free School

Free Schools were introduced by the Coalition government in 2010 general election as part of the Big Society initiative. The first 24 Free Schools opened in autumn 2011.

Since 2011, any Local Authority in need of a new school must seek proposals for an Academy or Free School, with a traditional Local Authority school only being allowed if no suitable Free School or academy is proposed. Since July 2015 the government is regarded all new academies as Free Schools – hence if there’s demand to establish them, any new school being established will be a free school.

To date, since 2010 there have been around 400 Free Schools established, which translates into about 250 000 school places, and the government hopes to establish an other 500 Free Schools over the next few years.

Types of free school

The majority of free schools are similar in size and shape to other types of academy. However, the following are distinctive sub-types of free school:

Studio school – A small free school, usually with around 300 pupils, using project-based learning.

University Technical College – A free school for the 14-18 age group, specialising in practical, employment focused subjects, sponsored by a university, employer or further education college.

Arguments for Free Schools

Free schools are a very good example of a neoliberal policy – the government is taking power away from Local Education Authorities (local government) and giving more power to parents, private businesses and charities to run schools.

Supporters claim that:

  1. Free schools create more local competition and drive-up standards
  2. They allow parents to have more choice in the type of education their child receives, much like parents who send their children to independent schools do.
  3. They also claim that free schools benefit children from all backgrounds – which could especially be the case with….

Arguments against Free Schools

Critics argue that…

  1. Free schools benefit primarily middle-class parents with the time to set them up, fuelling social segregation – I can really see this being the case with ‘studio schools’. (I can’t help but imagine a nice, small school with extensive playground and playing fields in a Devonshire village, so nice in fact that the yummies occasionally leave their 4WDs at home and walk the school run, at least when they’re not in the mood for heels.)
  2. Free schools divert money away from existing schools – There is a set amount of money in the education budget, and if free schools (and academies) get initial start up grants from the government (which some do) this means relatively less money for the Local Education Authority maintained schools.
  3. They are not actually needed and have lead to a surplus of school places – More than half of Free Schools opening in 2012 opened with 60% or less of the student numbers predicted by the impact assessment documents of each institution, leaving more than 10% spare places. Elsewhere, where Free Schools are fully subscribed, regular Local Authority schools have surplus capacity. This replication of capacity is grossly inefficient.
  4. People don’t actually want Free Schools – Polling in April 2015 put public support for Conservative proposals to increase the number of Free Schools by at least 500 at 26%.
  5. While the image of Free schools might be of motivated parents setting them up, Peter Wilby has suggested that Free Schools would be run by private companies rather than parents, teachers or voluntary groups. There is also the fact that in 2012 over 60% of free school applications were made by faith groups.