A Grammar school in Maidenhead? Why not?

Why do we want a grammar school?

As the parent of two school age children, who will be moving to their secondary education from September 2019, I am very apprehensive about the proposals to bring a grammar school to Maidenhead.

Other parents say “But why? Why should you worry? It will just make things easier for people whose children are going to go to a grammar school – it wont change anything for the rest of the children.”

I wish I could have that confidence. But I don’t. Why don’t I? Well, maybe because I loosely work in the field of education; maybe because I grew up in an area that didn’t have selective education, or maybe because I have spent a lot of time recently researching the possible impact of a grammar school on our neighbourhood.

My fear is that the arrival of a grammar school WILL change things. I would not chose for my children to sit the 11+ because, to me, education is about more than just academic success. I want my children to go to the local school and learn with the children that they have grown up with. I want them to learn in an environment which has a cross section of their peers within it. I want my children to see that some people find it easy to learn and some people don’t. I want them to see that some people get a lot of support in life and some people don’t. I want them to have to work hard for their success and to learn how their choices in life will affect their life.

At present, I am sure that some of their peers will sit the 11+ and go to a grammar school in another county when that time arrives. I am pleased that parents can make that choice and I know that parents already factor in the travelling when they make these choices for their children.

In future, with a grammar school on the door, it is likely that the same people will apply. Nobody knows if more children from Maidenhead would sit the test or even pass it. Even in their cabinet paper (section 2.13), RBWM can only speculate as to why more parents don’t already choose grammar schools.

If more people apply and the new school has 120 pupils each year from Maidenhead, then that is likely to be most of the top 15% of the maintained school cohort in each year group. Their future exam results will not be reflected in Maidenhead because their school will still be a Bucks school. A teacher looking for a job will see that Maidenhead, an affluent area, seems to have low results. They already know how prohibitively expensive it is to live here. Why would they chose Maidenhead over Reading?

Now we have poor results and problems recruiting teachers. The children in our maintained schools have lost some of the pupils who would have acted as positive role models. They are now in schools that have a reputation for being “poor” or “failing”. You may not want to call them “secondary moderns” but to all intents and purposes they are.

So now which school would I “chose” for my children? I don’t want them to go to a second rate secondary modern school. All the statistics from the three counties that still are exclusively “selective” in education show that secondary modern schools do not turn out the results that should be expected – and this is consistently apportioned to the same facts – difficult to recruit the best teachers, lack of positive role models for children, the mindset that lots of children seem to get when they “fail” a test at age 10………

“Why don’t you just tutor your children and get them into the grammar school?”

Well, I know that Maidenhead is an affluent area, but I imagine most families do not have the sort of disposable income that would allow them to pay £35-£50 per hour tutoring their child. For just one hour per week that would be nearly £2,000 per year, per child.
There is an alternative scenario. It may be that there are no more children from Maidenhead entering the new school than at present. Maybe other parents don’t push their children towards the 11+ because they feel like I do? They want their children to walk to their local school with friends they have known all of their lives; they want them to attend a mixed ability school for all the social benefits that gives.

“Then the dynamic of our secondary schools wouldn’t change, would it?”

And that is a good point. But, if there is £20million available to build a new school in Maidenhead, why don’t we build a brilliant, state of the art, modern school which all children could benefit from? Why should only those who can pass a test get such facilities?

Imagine if we could locate such a school in an area of Maidenhead where poverty is highest and where children are presently least likely to achieve academic success? Now that would be a driver of social mobility, wouldn’t it?

6 thoughts on “A Grammar school in Maidenhead? Why not?

  1. Let’s break down the arguments:

    1. Education is about more than results – children should go to school with a cross-section of their peers.

    I absolutely agree that children should go to a school with a cross-section of peers. However, I disagree with the notion that grammar school is a homogenous environment. There is quite a wide range of academic ability in grammars, as well as, in many grammars in Bucks, a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. Indeed, The House of Commons Briefing Paper on Grammar Schools (19 October, 2015) stated -“There was relatively little difference in English as a first language by school type and grammar schools had a considerably higher proportion of non-white pupils than secondary moderns and above the national average”

    2. Children can take the 11+ and get bussed to another county easily, without the need for a satellite grammar in Maidenhead.

    This year, in excess of 1300 OOC applicants who passed the 11+ did not get any grammar school place. This includes a high number of children in Maidenhead who did not get into a catchment grammar that they would, in previous years, have been accepted to. That is the very school that has proposed a satellite in Maidenhead.

    3. More children at a satellite grammar will improve Bucks results and lower those in RBWM.

    This contradicts the mission statement of Point 1 – is school about results or about what is in children’s best interests?

    4. Teachers will avoid RBWM as a result of these changes.

    Entirely untrue – just look at the success of TeachFirst training in London, which has raised the attainment of some boroughs from some of the lowest in the country to among some of the best.

    5. The issue of tutoring

    The only genuine concern in this argument, and one that needs addressing.

    6. The expense of a satellite school

    Another fatuous argument – millions were spent on Manor Green School, a fabulous school which benefits many children, many of whom are OOC. More recently, the Bridge School has opened its doors. Both of them are state-funded. Do you resent taxpayers funds being used on these specialist schools?

    • There isn’t a “wide range of academic ability in grammars” – that is the whole point of them – they take just the top 10-20% and I assume the 1300 OOC children who you refer to are children who sat the Bucks 11+ on an “out of county” basis? From RBWM’s own statistics there were 20 children in Maidenhead who sat the 11+ in 2014 and then didn’t get a grammar place in 2015. It may well be that they didn’t get a place because they didn’t pass?

      You’ll see from the blog that I didn’t criticise the £20million to build a new school – my criticism is that, if a new school is needed, then it should be one that caters for the full cross section of Maidenhead and not one that would be selective.

      The blog was written as a personal viewpoint about my reservations about a grammar school coming to town – I do think that poor results, coupled with our high living costs will prove to be a deterrent to good teacher recruitment. I think it is clear that we are on opposite sides of the debate about this – you clearly support the grammar school suggestion and I don’t.

  2. Just a question – why do so many people in England have a problem with selection by academic ability, but not with religious admissions criteria????

  3. Well, that’s a whole other can of worms! Personally, I’d oppose a new faith school on the same grounds (new schools should be accessible by all and I don’t support selection). If that happens, no doubt we’ll find ourselves working together!

  4. Jo, reread my comments – there were 1300 OOC applicants who PASSED the 11+ who did not get a grammar school place for September 2016. That is a lot of disappointed children and parents.
    Mark my words, the support for a satellite grammar will be heavily bolstered by this.

    • Lucille

      There were 2788 students that passed the Buckinghamshire 11+ in 2015, of which 1357 live in Buckinghamshire. The remaining students come from all over the country from as far afield as Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Stockton-on-Tees and West Sussex. There were even six students that passed who live on the Isles of Scilly! How were they planning to travel to Buckinghamshire grammar schools each day? By Helicoptor?!

      The truth is that a large proportion of the students that take the Buckinghamshire 11+ have no intention of taking up a place that’s offered to them and are simply taking the test as practice for the 11+ exam run in their own districts.

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