It seems that a lot of people are against grammar schools and I want to give you my opinions on it.
My eldest son D goes to grammer school, We aren’t rich or posh. We are a normal family. I wouldn’t say we are pushy parents, we’d love both the boys to do well, but D’s school was his own first choice.
We went to look around a couple of grammar schools and a couple of secondary schools. The nearest local secondary was awful in my opinion – it was set up for the under performing children more than the smart children. That sounds snobby I know, but it was true. We sat through the headmasters lecture to all of the prospective parents. It was all about how they accept all kids, even the naughtiest children that have been excluded everywhere else. This wasn’t an attractive sales pitch unless you were a parent of an ASBO child.
Trying our best not to judge straight away we spoke with a few teachers of D’s favourite subjects. They too were preaching at us how they turn children predicted to get no GCSEs or F grades in to D or E grade students. We ask “so what about the C to A predicted children? What do you do to help them keep learning?” From all of the teachers we asked, the question was sidestepped or replied negatively. They don’t know what to do with the smart kids. They wouldn’t have been able to help him, and D wouldn’t have fitted in at all. Inside my head I’m begging my son hates it as much as we did, and as soon as we were a polite distance away from the building he told us how lame he thought it was and asked if they only want naughty kids are they surprised they struggle to teach them? I was relieved.
At another grammar school we felt out of place, it was too “old boys club”. We were wearing Primark, they were all in Barbor, Joules and tweed. The bus fare to this school would be a problem we’d have to budget hard to find. Again D voiced his dislike of this school when safely back in our car. He too had felt that he was “the wrong class” and more than a bit awkward.
The only school he wanted to go to is the one he’s at now. If he liked one of the nearby secondary schools I would have let him go there. I suspect if he’d attended the secondary he would have been in a lot of trouble by now. You see when he gets bored, he gets disruptive, and he’ll get agreesive. In his primary school they realised this, and they sent a teacher over from the grammar to give him extra lessons at his level – to keep him challenged. He sat a GCSE test in maths whilst in the last year of Junior school and passed it (although it does not officially count as school did it “for fun” just to keep him busy).
Even now new teachers at the primary say to Jen “are you D’s little brother? Are you a maths genius too?” Jen isn’t the smartest or the slowest. He fits in with his year group very well. D did not, he was always ahead, always bored and usually doing things like suduko or crosswords in the afternoon as he’d finished his work already. Can you imagine him being bothered to try in the secondary? No, I can’t.
We didn’t buy our way into grammar by learning the 11+ papers inside out and back to front like most parents did. We encouraged him to look at a few of these practice papers but he said “if I’m meant to be there I’ll pass”. He’s dead right. He got in, he didn’t do amazing in the test but he passed and that is good enough. Because the school had been giving him the extra lessons already in primary the head master had already said that he wanted D to go there, regardless of the pass mark. We didn’t know that at the time, but I think it’s better to have gotten in on his test score than by being asked for.
Now he is happy in school, he’s no longer an odd one out. He’s still smart but now he has peers of a similar intelligence and it’s wonderful.
If he was at that secondary I truly believe he’d pretend to be average in an attempt to fit in, that his grades would have gone downhill fast and he’d still not have friends.
Some kids don’t fit. Not all children are the same. And not all grammar school parents are posh!