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About Me:18-year-old sixth form student, studying English Literature, History and Government and Politics. My articles will broadly cover topics from the current affairs of politics to reviews of books and albums, as well as adding my own creative pieces, whether it be short fiction or general opinion.
One statement that the Conservatives and Theresa May love to band around is that the creation of new grammar schools will help disadvantaged children achieve a high quality education. The reason for this, they argue, is that the bright-though-poor will pass the 11+ and gain entry. The glaring flaw of this argument, however, is that the pool of attainment for passing the 11+ is disproportionately swayed towards those of middle and upper class. The usual reason for this is because children that come from those kinds of backgrounds have greater access to resources and are brought up in more stable households. This means that grammar schools are not, as Theresa May says, giving a greater education to those who are disadvantaged, but instead making the gap between them and the advantaged even greater. Because it also turns out that not only do grammar schools concentrate all of the brightest students into one institution, they also draw in the best teachers. Is it not an allure to teach children who are going to be instantly receptive to what you have to say, rather than have to deal with children that just can’t get it? You may even teach a child who will then go on to excel in your favourite field of study – a tantalising thought for any teacher. Of course, the best teachers are those that teach not out of any self-gain, and will be selfless both for those who are receptive and those that are struggling, but these teachers are rare, and so the best teach in grammar schools.
One aspect of the debate that students and teachers from my school appeared to gravitate towards was the amount of ethnic minorities that grammar schools in Bexley have. Whilst it is always good to see ethnic minorities do well, we have got to the part of the 21st century, especially in Bexley, where people of colour are beginning to be as distributed evenly across the classes, especially middle, as whites are. This, coupled with the fact that families from Asian and African origin favour an educational culture that includes tutoring, means that those who are doing worst at school are white working class boys, as was shown by a study by Sutton Trust. So whilst I don’t doubt the good intentions of the teachers in promoting racial harmony, this is not indicative of a successful education system, nor should it be used a barometer to judge something positively.
Lastly, on a purely emotional level, the grammar school system – which is purely set up to segregate, as former head of Ofsted, Michael Wilshaw bluntly put it – is demoralising. At the age of eleven, children might not grasp abstract concepts, but they can easily figure out the binary of ‘smart kids go here, not so smart kids go here’. Not only is it cruel on children to frame them in such a way, but it also has social effects. This type of segregation cultivates myths that see grammar school students exalted as book-wormed geniuses (a friend of mine actually told me that someone from a comprehensive school said that she mustn’t have any hobbies being from a grammar school as she must always have her head in a book) and comprehensive students as illiterate.
So no wonder comprehensive students didn’t turn up to the debate – it wasn’t their lack of educational appetite, but the pre-existing segregation of grammar and non-grammar students. Grammar school is somewhat of a novelty to British society – it is virtually non-existent throughout Europe, where levels of education are higher than ours. This grammar school debate was like giving one child £10 and another £5, and then talking about how great it was that the former was able to get a more expensive gift.
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