Here’s some welcome news this morning on the BBC website:
‘Plans to re-introduce grammar schools in England will be presented in the House of Commons later. Prime Minister Theresa May has announced she wants schools to be given the right to apply to select pupils by ability, as well as allowing grammar schools to expand’.
At last we have a sensible prime minister! In my opinion it was a crying shame when grammar schools started to close down. Why did the powers-that-be want to stop bright children from excelling? Did they just prefer every adult to live on that opium for the masses which exists in the form of daytime TV so they can be easily manipulated? Bright children are our future inventors, research scientists, doctors and lawyers. There will always be some children who are cleverer than others, it’s a fact of life. Some may even be gifted, and they should be encouraged to learn and have a chance to shine and rise above the mainstream without parents having to pay thousands of pounds every term for their child to receive a private education.
I was lucky enough to experience both grammar school and comprehensive education. At the age of 11 the headmistress of my junior school sent me, a bookish, quiet child, for an interview with the headmaster of an elite state grammar school in East London. He was dressed in a formal suit, cape and mortar board, and there was a cane hanging on the wall. I was terrified. He asked me what I was reading, and I told him; the biography of Judy Garland. We spent the next 20 minutes or so talking about poor Judy’s troubled life. That was enough to get me into the school. If my parents hadn’t had to move from East London to South London, then probably I would have spent all my time there until I was 18. However, I was there for 2 years, and the change from grammar to comprehensive education was ultimately the best one for me.
In the grammar school there were only 300 pupils. All the teachers wore mortar boards and capes, and we stood up when a teacher entered the room. We sat in rows facing the blackboard, learning French verbs parrot fashion, the law of the lever, fulcrums, algebra, calculus, and the delights of logs, sines and co-sines. Apart from enjoying French and English lessons I was bored witless, and out of my depth. There was no formal music education, hardly any sport, and only a smattering of art and crafts. If one child misbehaved, the whole class was kept in after school. I remember sitting there for at least 2 hours one afternoon because each child had to learn the French national anthem in French before we could go home. To this day I can still recite it! My abiding memories of that school is being humiliated in the maths class by the teacher, being praised for my work by the art mistress, and of girls throwing the remains of their lunch boxes down from their playground on the roof onto the boys’ playground below. It was closed down years ago and is now an adult education institute I think.
This type of education is fine for an academically gifted child or the fortunate child which has a mathematical brain. I could not add up two numbers in my head, and had a brain full of words, stories and music. When I moved to South London I couldn’t believe my luck. Although the school was huge, with 2000 girls, there were a plethora of after school music groups; orchestra, choir, and a madrigal group. I joined them all and loved it! We still sat in rows facing the blackboard, but the teachers were more approachable. I enjoyed English, French, Music, Art, Human Biology, and an easier type of (then CSE) Maths and Physics. I absolutely loved that school, and cried when I left. Unfortuately I am not academically gifted, but going to a comprehensive school had enabled me to gain 8 ‘O’ levels. I think if I had stayed at the grammar school I would not have had the same success.
So Mrs May, please do your best to reinstate grammar schools. Labour says the move will ‘entrench inequality’, but all children will never be equal. There will always be some more clever than others, and they should be encouraged to learn and thrive at a grammar school more suited to their needs.