Letter: A lesson for schools
Friday 03 September 1999
I was a pupil at Christ's College, Finchley, between 1974 and 1981 and witnessed the impact of the imposition of the comprehensive system on one of London's finest grammar schools. Able senior teachers left, expectations fell and discipline declined. A school that had produced alumni such as Lord Young, the Chief Rabbi and Will Self is today regarded as an average comprehensive, despite its location in relatively affluent suburbia.
In contrast, Queen Elizabeth's Boys in Barnet has journeyed in the opposite direction, from unremarkable comprehensive to table-topping grant-maintained status.
Grammar schools produce greater upward mobility than comprehensives for bright children from ordinary backgrounds. Their abolition would damage prospects for such children, who are likely to be dragged into the morass of mediocrity which is the prevailing ethos of too many schools. Moreover, it would drive more middle-class parents into the private sector, further entrenching the public/private divide in education.
Rather than destroy some of the best examples of state educational achievement, we should seek to improve those areas of our education system that are in clear need of advancement and additional resources.
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