We received the following letter today from a worried parent from Maidenhead, who would like to share the effect that grammar schools over the border are having on her children.
Dear Prime Minister,
As you continue your push for an expansion of the grammar school system across the country, I’d like to share with you what grammar schools are already doing to our children in the hope that it might make you think again.
My child, and for the sake of preserving their privacy we’ll call them John, is a year 6 child in a primary school in your constituency.
Until last week John had absolutely no self-doubt that he would be able to succeed in anything they put their mind to. Any school would be proud to have my child and it was fantastic to visit the comprehensive schools here and be made to feel welcome. I have never thought anything of sending John anywhere else as I come from a comprehensive background untainted by grammars as does my husband and we like to think we have done well in life for ourselves.
Unfortunately after the school holidays John started acting strangely as if he was under a lot of stress before an exam. After probing him, John told me that some of his friends who are taking the 11+ had said that, because John was not taking it, he would definitely be getting a bad education. John then spent a good deal of time crying because John believes I am sending him “to a school with bad teachers.” John is now a very confused and unsettled child. I suspect the other children are just as confused as to why John is not being made to endure the 11+ and they can’t understand why John is being spared the torture.
No doubt some of the children’s parents out there will be thinking one of three things about me:
a) I don’t have confidence that John would pass and want to spare John the experience of “failing”
b) I am whining because I am a lazy parent and don’t want to put in the work that they have put in on behalf of their child
c) I am “holding John back” or other such nonsense?
This could not be further from the truth.
I would like to tell those tutoring parents whose children are taking the test that I don’t want John to go to a grammar school because I am worried that they are stuffed full of idiots. If I had decided to pay hundreds of pounds of tuition fees and spend every Saturday intensively tutoring then John would have stood exactly the same chance of passing as their children do. If they fail this test, your children think they will be going to a bad school with bad teachers and worse still all these damaged kids will be coming to my children’s school. That’s not a great start in secondary education for any child and certainly not fair to the excellent schools and teachers that we have in the area.
Rather than taking this backward step Mrs May, you should be focusing on ensuring that every child, no matter what their background or talents, gets the very best education that we can give them. That truly would delivery a country that works for the many and not just the few.
A worried parent.