Supporting Families
  • banner11
  • banner7
  • banner13
  • banner3
  • banner8
  • banner12
  • banner9
  • banner6
  • banner4
  • banner10
Sunday, 30 July 2017 12:19

Politicians' Children and Grammar Schools: Canterbury Gazette, 4 August 2017

I find the criticism of a Labour Member of Parliament living in the selective county of Kent, for sending her children to grammar school when she disagrees with academic selection, quite bizarre especially as no alternatives are offered by her critics (the link is just one of many online articles). 

What follows is not, I believe, a political view but one that is purely pragmatic. In Canterbury, where this issue has arisen, 30% of the state school population go to grammar schools at the age of 11, well over the county standard of 25%. So, even the technically comprehensive church schools will have a limited number of children assessed to be of grammar school ability at that age, even assuming that a school whose philosophy is underpinned by faith is an option.

Whatever parents’ view on the principle of selective education, they still have a parental responsibility to do their best for their children within the system that operates locally. It would surely be perverse not to send an able child, assessed to be of grammar school ability, to the school best suited for their abilities. Certainly, when I was a grammar school headteacher I had children in my care whose parents disagreed strongly with the selective system, including Labour politicians. This did not present a problem for them or for me, as we all agreed that given this was the system, even though they would have it abolished, mine was the most appropriate school for those children.

It is clear after two general elections in which the only discussion about grammar schools from any party was about the possibility of expanding numbers, that there is no general appetite for a break-up of the selective system where it exists, especially with the greatest divide in education receiving no mention whatever. For it has always been a mystery to me why the Left in politics never refers to the biggest fault line, that between state and private schools, with the country’s private sector demonstrably undermining social mobility without being challenged.  Many academically selective private schools, benefitting from historic and private funding sources along with impressive tax breaks and ‘old boy’ networks, offer future life prospects for those able to afford them, that areas without grammar schools cannot hope to emulate.

The Canterbury Labour M.P. is not the only local parent to be publicly pilloried for expressing opinions on this matter, oddly perhaps in a university City that should create a climate of encouraging tolerance and rational debate. However, she should surely not be criticised, nor her children brought into the public domain, for choosing the most appropriate state education option for her children.  Also, strangely, I doubt given the experience of a number of other Labour MPs that she would have been equally vilified for sending her children to the alternative local option, one of Canterbury’s three private schools! 

Last modified on Sunday, 11 March 2018 17:07

1 comment

  • Comment Link Monday, 07 August 2017 13:42 posted by Martin Hydes

    re Politicians' children

    Regarding your comment about private schools and social mobility, I should like to draw to your attention case in support of private education.

    I was brought up in a flat above a shop in Gravesend High Street in the 1960s. My parents ran a small business. Neither of them had academic qualifications. My maternal grandfather was an economic migrant from Germany. He was interned on the Isle of Man in 1915 after his shop was ransacked by members of the local community.

    My parents had aspirations for me and I passed the entrance exam to King's Rochester (as it happens I also passed the 11+ which my father insisted on in case the business went under).

    I enjoyed my time at King's and went on to become a teacher in state schools.

    I think this is a better example of social mobility being worked at rather than taking the benefits of a grammar school education when ideologically opposed to the system (and thus depriving more committed/aspiring families of places - even those whose child has passed the Kent Test with a very good score).

    So, I disagree with you on that one...but usually am in agreement with the investigations you undertake! PETER: Hello Again Martin (at least I assume you are the historian I knew!). You are quite right to flag up your personal exception to the hypothesis and be rightly proud of it. There will of course always be many such exceptions and scholarships, and long may they last. However, to suggest that a Labour politician should buy their way out of the appropriate state school for their child still sounds perverse to me.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.
Basic HTML code is allowed.

Latest News & Comments

Just click on a news item below to read it in full. Feel free to subscribe to the news via the email link to the right or the RSS Feed at the bottom of the page. Please note that the 800 or so regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item. If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment. Also feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: peter@kentadvice.co.uk. \nNews items appear as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

  • Fort Pitt, Holcombe and Rochester Grammar Schools: Schools Adjudicator Rejects Admission Criteria as Unlawful

    The Schools Adjudicator, responsible for deciding on school admission policy disputes, has ruled that the determined admission arrangements for 2019 for these three schools are in breach of the Schools Admissions Code and ordered them to be changed. This will ensure that the new rules are fairer to local children or, in the case of The Rochester Grammar School, that more appropriately qualified girls are admitted.

    Three other schools acknowledged the validity of my complaint at an early stage and withdrew their proposals. These were: Brompton Academy, Hundred of Hoo Academy and Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School.

    Medway Council, with oversight of school admission rules published on its website, neither took action to block the unlawful proposals (if indeed they noticed them), nor bothered to express a view on their legality to the Schools Adjudicator when invited. There has been just one complaint about a Kent school's proposals since 2012 (relating to In-Year Admissions), as KCC monitors proposed changes. 

    To look at the decisions in detail follow the links: Fort Pitt; Holcombe Grammar; The Rochester Grammar, with my analysis below.

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 13 September 2018 20:15 4 comments Read 2739 times
  • Academy News: September 2018

    I am afraid this regular update is well overdue because of pressures elsewhere. I will be publishing a second article shortly (I hope) but this one is primarily about new and proposed academies and the increasing practice of re-assigning academies to other Trusts when there has been a break down of performance in some way. 

    Panorama, 10th September: Financial Mismanagement in Academy Trusts
    This is a subject that I have explored many times in these pages, most commonly in the scandal of Lilac Sky Academy Trust and more recently with The SchoolsCompany Academy Trust. I have enclosed a comment outlining the issues with the two Trusts at the foot of this page. 

    Another ten schools have become academies this year, bringing the Kent total to 89% out of 101 secondary schools including applications in progress, and 37% of 456 primaries. In Medway 16 out of 17 secondary schools and 54 of the 79 primaries are academies. You will find all the latest conversions below, along with new applications to become academies, and a full list of Kent and Medway academies here.

    The number of Multi Academy Trusts continues to proliferate, some with ever more exotic names; you will find a full list of Kent and Medway Trusts here.

    Read more...
    Written on Monday, 10 September 2018 23:42 Be the first to comment! Read 295 times
  • Private Schools Coaching for Grammar Entrance

    This is an updated and revised version of a story I wrote as the events below unfolded 

    The BBC excitedly revealed the results of ‘an exclusive undercover investigation’ on Monday last. This had discovered to no one’s surprise that private schools depending on a high rate of pupils securing grammar school places for their existence prepare those pupils for the Kent Test. You will find on the BBC website here a much watered down version of the original headline grabbing, anti-grammar school story which dominated the channel and Radio Kent for two days leading up to the Kent Test. The programme was followed the next day by another ‘lead story’ which also recycled and expanded on remarks by Robert Halfon, MP and Chairman of the Government Select Committee on Education, several months earlier but presented as breaking news. This also criticised KCC for creating ‘confusion’ by not knowing how a Review it had commissioned into coaching would turn out! 

    The two BBC employees who have taken the trouble to express their great unhappiness about the story to me confidentially, are completely in the right. The new anodyne website version which completely loses the initial hysteria is surely an implicit acknowledgement of the error of judgement.  

    The BBC 'revelation’ about private school coaching can hardly come as news to anyone who has had dealings with or enquired about admissions to private primary schools for possible entry over the past decade or so. Many of these schools owe their existence to their ‘success rate’ in seeing pupils secure places at grammar schools, whether or not they contributed to it. They will charge families up to £10,000 p.a. to maximise chances, advertising their achievements through websites and in the media .

    It is most unfortunate that the BBC item was published this week in particular, attracting a large amount of media coverage in the run up to Thursday’s Kent Test. For it, and the subsequent media comment swirling around about grammar school matters in general, would have been an unnecessary distraction for many of the families whose children sat the test.

    Read more...
    Written on Tuesday, 04 September 2018 09:50 2 comments Read 466 times
  • Paul Carter and Grammar School Numbers

    Revised 1st September

    Paul Carter, Leader of KCC had an important interview with The Times published on Monday, along with commentary by the newspaper which can be found here.  He expresses concern that the proportion of pupils admitted to Kent’s 32 grammar schools has risen to well over the 25% target set by the Council, which risks weaken­ing the specialist purpose of grammar schools and is damaging to non-select­ive schools nearby, diluting the quality of their intake. This is down primarily to the operation of the school admission appeals process in some schools, the expansion of planned grammar school places not keeping pace with the general rise in numbers of the school population.

     I have written my own analysis of the situation earlier this year, but went further and explored the reasons why the proportion of Year 7 Kent grammar school pupils had risen to 31.7% from 30.3% between 2012 and 2017, and why it was in any case above 25%.

    Paul’s article, whilst showing unhappiness about the situation, identifies his own reasons for the increased proportion but gives no indication there is an appetite to wind back the proportion of children going on to grammar school. Indeed, I don’t believe that with the loss of control by KCC to individual academies this would be possible.

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 30 August 2018 20:12 Be the first to comment! Read 416 times
  • Falling Rolls,Year 10 through to GCSE

    On Tuesday, The Times newspaper headlined a story about schools removing pupils or encouraging them to leave in the run up to GCSE, followed by two pages of analysis inside the paper. This is an issue I have followed closely in recent years, mainly from the viewpoint of numbers of children being Home Educated and Permanently Excluded, most recently here.

    Medway UTC 1


    This article explores schools where the roll has fallen way above the norm over this period. On average 2% of Kent children leave mainstream schools in Years 10 and 11, and 4% in Medway, raising the question of why this should happen at all. Surprisingly, the schools losing the most pupils are generally different between 2016-17 and 2017-18, suggesting that none have a consistent policy to remove pupils unlikely to do well before GCSE, although several have extremely high levels of ‘Elective’ Home Education. This is contrary to the examples given in The Times.

    For the cohort taking GCSE in 2018, the five biggest losses of pupils were: were: Medway UTC 25%; New Line Learning and Victory (Medway) Academies 13%; Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy 10% and Robert Napier School (Medway) 9% the only school to appear in the lists for both years. In 2017 they were: Orchards Academy 17%; Brompton and Strood Academies (both Medway) 12%; Ebbsfleet Academy and Thamesview School 11%. In all cases that is three or more pupils on average from every class. Below I give a fuller list for each year.

    Read more...
    Written on Tuesday, 28 August 2018 16:38 1 comment Read 295 times
  • GCSE Results and Admission to Sixth Forms

    GCSE results out yesterday have provided considerable speculation as to the effect of the changes. What follows is a very personal view, parts of which were shared in an interview on ITV Meridian last evening. I conclude with a brief consideration of applications to school Sixth Form courses, also looking at certain illegal practices, amazingly including further malpractice at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls.

    It is my opinion, shared  by many others, that GCSE students are the victims of yet another of a series of pointless changes. These appear to me to have no virtue whatever, as explained below. However, whatever has been thrown at them, my congratulations go out to those that have achieved their aims at GCSE and my commiserations to those who have not.

    Sadly, the latest changes are yet another massage of GCSE structure and assessment methods to enable the latest in a line of governments to try and convince us that something is being done to improve standards.

    Read more...
    Written on Friday, 24 August 2018 23:17 1 comment Read 529 times