Dear Theresa May, here’s what grammar schools did to my family

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Dear Theresa May, here’s what grammar schools did to my family

Post by eddie on Mon Sep 12, 2016 2:33 pm

Apologies for the long c&p but it does make for an interesting read.


"Dear Theresa May, here’s what grammar schools did to my family"
John O'Farrell

You probably won’t remember me but I stood against you in Maidenhead in the 2001 general election. I was the Labour candidate returning to my home town, you were the local Tory MP secretly aiming for the very top; it was like the beginning of a really bad romcom. Anyway, I thought you ought to know what it was like growing up in your constituency under the grammar school system and how it had a negative effect on my family and others in the town for which, despite my best efforts, you are still the Conservative member of parliament.

When I was at primary school, we read one of Tove Jansson’s Moomin books, and I remember it featured this huge comet that was heading straight towards them. It was terrifying, it was getting closer and closer, filling the sky and all their thoughts. Well, that’s basically what the 11-plus felt like. Even as young as six or seven, I became aware of the growing stress in our family home, prompted by this make-or-break test that was hurtling towards my big brother Patrick.

In a panic that he was going to fail, my jittery parents pulled him out of the wonderful Courthouse primary school and sent him to a private school for year 6, which was a disaster.

At his new school my 10-year-old brother was told he would get the cane if he didn’t have the right sort of ruler. I remember my dad frantically driving us around Maidenhead before school, and Pat rushing into various newsagents and stationers’ looking for a wooden ruler. He kept running out, increasingly terrified, saying: “No, they’ve only got plastic ones …” and Dad would screech off in the car looking for another shop, aware that if Pat was late, he’d get the cane for that. And even though I was only seven, I remember thinking “This is insane!”

My parents quickly came to the same conclusion and after six weeks Pat was put back into the state system, although the headmaster there said he had “lost his sparkle”.

In the event, Courthouse got him through his 11-plus, but of course the nature of the system was that most of his classmates had to be failed. We got a lift home from the mum of a girl in Pat’s class. He climbed into the car and said: “I passed my 11-plus!” Then as an aside to Sarah’s mum: “Sarah failed though.” That’s how Sarah’s mum found out about her daughter’s educational future. I feel there should be a new rule, Theresa, that when you talk about bringing back grammar schools, you have to add “and secondary moderns for most children”.

It divided your constituency right down the middle. A year or two later Pat was cycling home in his grammar school uniform and was badly beaten up by two bigger boys from Gordon Road secondary modern (you won’t know that one, it was closed down soon after). The bruises on his head came up like cartoon lumps and all because his uniform made Patrick “posh”.

I’m not suggesting that casual violence in young males is the product of educational selection, but if you are going to have a system where lots of kids feel like failures at 11, and then the “successes” are clearly visible in their special uniforms, well, don’t expect your constituency to be a happier, more inclusive place.

In fact I worry about your own education when you talk about “inclusive grammar schools”. That’s an oxymoron: it’s impossible, it’s like “fun run” or “compassionate Conservatism”.

I wish you could have seen the secondary moderns in your constituency, Theresa, they were awful. Cox Green, Furze Platt, Altwood; back in the early 1970s, these schools were considered substandard and rough and unambitious for their pupils. Some of my brother’s friends went to them (or played truant from them, depending on mood). They all left at 16 and I know that at least one must have had a deeply flawed education because I canvassed him in 2001 and he said he was voting for you.


Read more https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/sep/12/theresa-may-grammar-schools-maidenhead

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Re: Dear Theresa May, here’s what grammar schools did to my family

Post by eddie on Sun Sep 18, 2016 5:58 pm

Does it? Perhaps you didn't read or understand the article. Can't see my name anywhere in it.

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Re: Dear Theresa May, here’s what grammar schools did to my family

Post by Tommy Monk on Sun Sep 18, 2016 9:01 pm

Most of the arguments around grammar schools are spurious.

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Re: Dear Theresa May, here’s what grammar schools did to my family

Post by Angry Andy on Sun Sep 18, 2016 9:11 pm

Tommy Monk wrote:Most of the arguments around grammar schools are spurious.
Said the man making a spurious comment.

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