Top grammar under siege

ONE of Britain's most successful grammar schools is facing a determined attempt to force it to go comprehensive by parents opposed to selection.

The Campaign for State Education (Case) will use rules coming into force this month to hold ballots on whether selection should continue in Britain's 166 grammar schools. Case's first target is Queen Elizabeth Boys' School in Barnet, north London.

The school's academic results are high - last summer's A-level results ranked it the top state school in London - but Case questions whether its performance is due to the quality of teaching or whether selection merely allows it to cream off the brightest boys in north London. It believes selection restricts parental choice, forcing other schools to take a higher proportion of disruptive pupils and making competition for places ever fiercer.

But QE Boys' is popular: around 3,000 prospective parents visited the school's open evening last week and the school anticipates more than 1,000 applications for next autumn's intake.

QE Boys' was founded in 1573 for "the training of boys in manners and learning" under a Royal charter granted by Elizabeth I. It lies in 23 acres on the edge of the Hertfordshire green belt and facilities include an Eton Fives court. It went comprehensive in 1971 but, despite great local opposition, went grant-maintained in 1989 and wholly selective in 1995. It takes 160 boys a year on the basis of an entrance exam and 20 on musical ability. It will vigorously contest any moves to abolish selection.

Jenny Brown, a member of Case and the action group Barnet Parents, predicts that QE Boys' will be targeted once the regulations are passed in Parliament. "I would be very surprised if some parents didn't take up the ballot option," she said, adding that selection created the risk of self-fulfilling prophecies. "If you're told you're good you go for it. But if you fail or are rejected then your self-esteem goes the other way. Selection affects all pupils and parents in the borough."

The reasons why parents send their children to QE Boys' are complex. While many wholeheartedly endorse the ethos of selection, others say they are compromising their beliefs. "I believe in the comprehensive system. I think selection is wrong," said one mother whose child has been at the school for three years. "But we've looked at some of the local comprehensives and were appalled by what we saw with pupils openly disobeying teachers. There should be freedom of choice but there isn't."

One father, who had travelled from Wimbledon in south London, said: "I feel very sad about having to apply here. But we're dealing with my son's future. I can't hold him back in the hope that will help other schools improve in a few years. It will be too late for him by then."

Other parents fear a return to the comprehensive fold would dilute standards. "Academic results were what attracted us. It impressed us that they don't take children because of where they live," said Michele Benson, whose son started at the school in September. "I don't think everyone should go to local schools because standards would go down. Anybody could come in and I wouldn't like that."

Other parents in the borough made a deliberate choice not to send their children to QE Boys' and maintain that local comprehensives offer excellent schooling. Pat Hemmens, whose sons went to the nearby East Barnet comprehensive, said the peer pressure created by selection was intolerable. "I refused to put my second son in for QE Boys' tests. He asked me whether I thought he wasn't clever enough, even though he is. People whose children are not quite so able are missing out. They aren't having bright kids in the classrooms to bring the standards up." The threat to selection comes from the Education (Grammar Schools Ballots) Regulations 1998, under which a ballot can be held if 20 per cent of parents in feeder schools call for one.

Underhill junior school, a mile from QE Boys', 10 years ago sent up to 25 pupils to QE Boys' each year. Last September it sent just five. Its headmaster, Tony Godfrey, said: "One of the problems that parents face is that numbers leaving junior schools are very high and most schools have become oversubscribed."

A head at another feeder school said the intense competition caused "a lot of worry and sleepless nights" for parents. "They are putting themselves and their children through hell to get the school they want with little prospect of success."

Suggested Topics
News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress and 100 others on 'master list' after massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Asset Manager

£70000 - £75000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Katie Robinson +44 (...

KS1 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: KS1 Teaching Specialist Leic...

Y3 Teacher - Loughborough

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Key Stage 2 specia...

KS2 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day + tax deductable expenses: Randstad Education Leicester: At...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor