Education > Campaigners protest against Theresa May’s grammar school plans

Posted on May 11, 2017

Image courtesy of Alberto G. via-flickr

Kirsten Kamuntu reports on why many are opposed to selective education
On May 9th, Melissa Benn, daughter of the late Labour politician Tony Benn, pledged to sabotage Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for new grammar schools.

Benn is leading the campaign for Comprehensive Future, which vows to do all it can to block any laws allowing more grammar schools, instead sustaining the non-selective education system. She stated on the fundraising page: “Children are more likely to succeed when they are taught together in high-quality all-ability schools. Comprehensive education works and we need to protect it.”

Grammar schools select their students through means of an entrance test. Activists claim asking children to take an exam at 11 years old causes unwanted and unnecessary stress for pupils and parents. These schools split pupils into two categories: those who pass and those who fail, leaving the young people divided. Author Michael Morpurgo, best known for his children’s novels such as War Horse, added: “The 11-plus exam creates many more failures than successes. I was one of them.”

New government analysis has shown that as great as grammar schools are for the “privileged few” they do not support all the working-class families.

Selection is toxic. It tells a clever child they are stupid.

Labour says this adds to the evidence that these schools do not support social mobility. People have complained about the nature of the entrance test because it features questions that are not covered in regular state primary schools.

Affluent families can afford to pay for extra tuition for their children from as early as six years old, to prepare them for the 11-plus exam. This means, by the time their children sit for the exam, they are very much ready. However, Education Secretary Justine Greening states that “ordinary working families”, with a household income of around £33,000 cannot afford to send their children for such lessons putting them at a great disadvantage.

“By the age of 11, only 3/4 of the poorest children reach the government’s expected level of attainment in education, compared to 97% of the wealthiest kids,” says Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.

The Labour Party launched their Education not Segregation campaign late last year, to oppose the establishment of new grammar schools in Britain. At a conference, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner told Labour activists: “Selection is toxic. It tells a clever child they are stupid, strips a child of self-esteem and embeds inequality. Every child has potential. Every child can succeed. No child should be left out or left behind.”

What I think
Grammar schools put too much pressure on children at such a young age. More grammar schools are not what this country needs. We need more comprehensive schools. The selection procedure leaves much to be desired and makes unsuccessful candidates feel like failures.

Entry exams are not a true representation of a pupil’s intelligence, as many people do not perform to the best of their ability under pressure. Countless 11-year-olds fail these exams – not because they are not smart enough, but because of the great pressure being put onto them. Grammar schools divide ‘clever’ pupils from their friends and the rest of the younger population.

I believe that there should be one system for all schools and no entry tests because it makes life much easier, for young people and for parents.

What do you think? Please comment below.

Kirsten Kamuntu
Kirsten is a year ten student who loves music and fantasy novels. She is unsure of what she wants to do in the future, but she would love to write her own book one day.


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2 Responses to Campaigners protest against Theresa May’s grammar school plans

  1. Aysegul May 11, 2017 at 5:39 pm #

    Not everyone is acedemic so what happens if we come to a point where universities only accept grammar school children what would happen to the others? I agree with your point about how grammar schools put too much pressure on the students however sometimes pressure is good because some kids need something to push them forward rather than keep them sitting on a bench. Also a person shouldn’t just be judged on one test because it doesn’t show their overall ability. Would you say grammar schools should be completely band?

    • Kirsten May 12, 2017 at 9:22 am #

      I think if we ever got to the point that universities only accepted children from grammar schools it would severely damage the country’s economy. I agree that students need some pressure put on them to prepare them for the real world, but isn’t 11 a bit too young? There is always room for some friendly competition in non-selective schools to push children, rather than splitting them into smart and not so smart. It is mainly for this reason that I would say yes, grammar schools should be completely banned.

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