Besides a lot of homeless related stuff in which I declare an interest, I couldn’t help noticing an article, along with editorial, in today’s Echo, noting 11+ success rates among Southend’s primary schools have risen. This in the light efforts by the Council to improve success rates and (according to the Echo) following its campaign that pointed out the fact that the number of children from the town’s primary schools going to the town’s grammar schools, had fallen from 296 in 2004 to 197 in 2013 with some primary schools doing well and others not sending a single pupil to the grammar schools.
Credit where credit is due and today’s news is to be welcome, although I would like to point out when I published my “A Parent’s guide to the 11-plus” six years ago and, when I tried to interest the council and schools, I was treated with a certain disdain and was largely ignored by the Echo. I decided I need to focus my efforts on more fruitful avenues of service, according to the Reinhold Niebuhr (of serenity prayer fame) principle. Yet the reasons for my involvement remain clear and justifiable. This was (is) for me a social justice issue, and also an education one. I had a bright child wanting to go to a grammar school that attended an otherwise good primary school that gave the impression the 11-plus didn’t exist and made it quite clear they weren’t going to do anything extra to change what they did and certainly not by way of providing the help needed for children to be able to pass the 11+, noting that SATS (what schools work towards) and the 11-plus are very different exams.
My afore-mentioned child is about to go into the Upper Sixth at one of the town’s grammar schools and I don’t regret for a moment being his tutor to help him prepare for and pass the 11-plus and for writing the book, which I know has helped other parents who were in a similar position to us. For me, the main issues were (and still are) standards, discipline and manners and, while it would be unfair and simplistic to say a child gets these if they go to a grammar school and won’t get them if they don’t, I have to say it was with some relief to find that he had passed. Not that everything is as rosy as it seems when it comes to grammar schools: the overwhelming preoccupation with passing exams and what appears to be more affirmation given to those who go along with what the school offers than those who don’t, are two matters I might take issue with.
Since I wrote my book, I have blogged on a number of occasions, on education matters, and one of the reoccurring themes concerns what is education and how best can it be delivered? Regarding grammar schools, while I will continue to be supportive, long after my young charge has left, I remain ambivalent as to whether I can whole heartedly support the principle of selective education. Given that I have yet to find compelling evidence that comprehensives deliver in all the necessary areas when it comes to the brighter child, I am inclined to support the status quo, while ensuring a level playing field at the same time, at least until the revolution that I have been wanting comes about. I am concerned we still have schools in the town that have been labeled as failing by Ofsted and that is where many “disadvantaged” children end up. An even bigger challenge is ensuring children who go to these by default get a good education.