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Go on warpath to save our comprehensives

Adrienne Sheldon

Once again we have to lament the move to re-introduce grammar schools nationally and locally, and go on the warpath to try to save our very good comprehensives and put the money where improvements are needed.

One of the arguments is that they offer choice and, in my view, this is an absurdity: they do not offer choice, on the contrary: children fall into one compartment or another and are walled in where they are.

Having taught at Newlands School when it was the High School, and then being involved in the change to comprehensive, I feel passionately that we could do much more for all pupils in the comprehensive system.

Grammar schools were good and needed when they were introduced but society has changed and at the moment the comprehensive framework serves the social background in which we live.

It is also a fallacy to argue that they lead to greater social mobility as the social mix of a comprehensive is good for all those who experience it, teachers and pupils alike.

Children who do not always get the necessary encouragement at home can be spotted, nurtured and moved seamlessly within the same school and go from a teacher they know to another one they know in a building they know.

And finally it is wicked to subject eleven year old children to the trauma of taking a test which will brand them for life.

In France what was called the 'examen de sixième' was abolished decades ago. In other European countries, like Finland for example, children go from the primary to the secondary cycle without having to go through any hoops.

It is time enough to test young people when they are at GCSE level. They have matured, are clearer about their own options and free to make choices themselves about staying in formal education or not.

Adrienne Sheldon

Grosvenor Drive 


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