Until something is done to improve comprehensive schools radically we must provide grammar schools. Labour would be wrong to deny children grammar schools until they are absolutely sure that they can offer comprehensive schools with really good discipline and truly effective streaming. Having seen comprehensives suffer under both Labour and Conservative governments, I sincerely wonder if this will ever be possible. In the mean time, Labour ought to get real.
I took my 11-plus exam in 1977 (the first year that most grammar schools were changed into comprehensives under Labour). With top grades , I would have got into the local grammar, had it still existed. Instead I went to a vast inner-London comprehensive. Even with streaming, the academic standards and discipline were appalling. Few took O-levels and virtually no one bothered with A-levels.
The Socialist theory of non-selection in practice denies many bright children of low income families a decent education. Streaming in comprehensives should provide all children with the education they merit but the stark reality is that it simply doesn't happen.
How disappointing to read that somebody of the stature of Anne Barnes, general secretary of the National Association for the Teaching of English, is confidently propagating old myths about the teaching of spelling such as "You only learn to spell by reading a lot". Reading and spelling are different skills. In spite of the fact that many pupils who are early competent readers tend to be good spellers, others who can and do read perfectly well may be extremely poor at spelling. Spelling bees can be pleasurable and useful activities to exercise spelling skills. However, they do not generally teach pupils to spell and may be torture for those with spelling difficulties. To say that "any teacher knows that you can prevent a child ever learning to spell by using the spelling exercise approach" betrays a lack of practical experience. I know of nothing that will prevent a child who is inherently a good speller from learning to spell, provided that child has the opportunity to exercise the skill.
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