Grammar schools can be positive force | Letters | Education

Grammar schools can be positive force | Letters | Education


In an ideal world, state schools should be generously funded so that all pupils can achieve their potential, find meaningful work and lead fulfilling lives (Letters, 3 July). Back in the real world, I would invite opponents of grammar schools to solve the “triple science conundrum”. The headteacher of a comprehensive school considers the small cohort taking GCSE chemistry: the results are not sparkling, the lab is expensive to maintain and it is impossible to find a subject-specialist teacher. The solution to these challenges is to scrap the subject. The same goes for physics, additional maths, modern foreign languages and graded music exams – any subject, in fact, which requires additional resources from the school and a modicum of self-discipline from the pupils. Meanwhile, a couple of miles away, the headteacher of the neighbouring school is making exactly the same decisions. As a result, in large areas of the country – broadly speaking, poorer and more northern areas – there is a greatly restricted curriculum. The grammar-school system may be far from perfect, but it would help to provide the specialists we need, and to counterbalance the distorted power of the public schools in politics.
Dr Mark Ellis
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

Michael Pyke reports a slight fall in the percentage of privately educated pupils since 1966, but I wonder exactly which pupils were included in the figure of 7.1% in 1966? In that year I was approaching the end of my time as a pupil in a direct-grant grammar school, which was funded partly by the state/LEA and partly by fees, which in the following year were just over £100 pa. It meant that boys like me from lower middle-class and working-class families could attend, although when I went off to play cricket at the “real” public schools, the differences were readily apparent. By the mid-1970s I was teaching in a comprehensive school while my alma mater like many other direct-grant grammar schools, had gone fully independent. Their fees are now £12,000+ pa. It is interesting that the sudden increase in independent schools at that time was brought about by a Labour government.
Dr Dave Allen

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