The big grammar debate

by | Sep 22, 2016 | Parents, Schools & teachers, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Just because we run a rather successful tutoring agency – this doesn’t mean we are whole-heartedly behind the rise of a new wave of grammar schools. Over the past few years we have had in-depth conversations about secondary school choices with hundreds of parents. And they are not as pushy and all-for-grammar schools as you might think. Quite the contrary, they genuinely want to choose the right school for their child and are often afraid of the grammar machine.

As Radio Kent have been in touch about their big grammar debate, it got us thinking about our position…so here it is:

Grammar schools are great for those who enjoy school work, don’t worry too much about practical resourcing or an inspirational environment, and are happy to work independently. These kids need to be able to take on new concepts swiftly too, without getting themselves into a pickle and needing much extra support.

The reason our secondary school system works so well in West Kent – and possibly not so well in other places – is because of the range of quality schools we have on offer here. Schools which were previously secondary moderns, with all their negative associations, have been transformed through great management, great teaching and a dollop of specific funding from the local authority –  into places of excellence. Girls battle to get in to Hill View as this school is not only highly respected but has specific performing arts funding. Boys have the option to apply to Hayesbrook – which has sports funding and fantastic all-weather facilities. These schools are not over-sized and are rightly proud of their intake and performance. It would be plain wrong to suggest that any child offered a place there might see it as second place to the grammar option.

In West Kent we also have successful and well-funded comprehensive schools. Mascalls in Paddock Wood never fails to wow parents on open days as it has a fantastic new media centre and an impressive head teacher. And Bennett Memorial School up the road in Tunbridge Wells is a small church comprehensive again with an excellent reputation.

With all these schools available to children in our area it is easy to guide parents towards the right one for their own child. Many do keep up with our 11+ classes even if a pass is not on the cards, just because the academic boost is considerable. And we’ve not known a parent push for a grammar school when it is clear that their child would not flourish there. Here is a classic email from a parent on this subject:

We decided not to appeal for J to go to grammar school in the end as we felt that this would not be the right option for him.  However, on the plus side we had some good news last week as (his comprehensive) confirmed that he has been admitted to their grammar stream in September so all his hard work has paid off and he is absolutely delighted, although not too happy about having to do two languages.

This week Meopham School has come out as the first non-selective school to ask to be converted to a grammar. The school sits on a long road en route to Gravesend from here with few other schools around it. At a glance, this looks depressing as there isn’t a Hill View, a Mascalls or a Hayesbrook on the school’s doorstep to offer an exciting alternative to the new grammar.

So if the government want us to get excited about the extension of the grammar system – their focus should now be on continuing their academy and free school programme, and offering all schools subject-specialism funding. So that an excellent option exists for all children, not just for those who are grammar fodder.

Radio Kent’s Big Grammar Debate is on Monday 17 October at St Stephen’s Junior School, Canterbury. If you are interested in getting involved email: