*Just wanted to say that this is one of the longest posts I have ever done so grab yourself a cup of tea and enjoy if you love rants!*
I have completed my fifth year at a grammar school and I thought that I would write about some of the traits that they get picked up on and whether I think they are necessary or not.
Selective schools cause pressure from a young age:
My first point is that they are selective and that brings a huge amount of stress to 10 and 11 year olds across the country when having to sit the 11+ entrance test. In my area there weren’t any other schools that I really wanted to go to other than the local all girls grammar school so I did feel a sense of urgency to pass these tests. I ended up not getting the required marks to pass the test 3 marks away. This lead to me feeling incredibly disappointed and feeling as though I wasn’t good enough, which is an awful thing to feel at a young age. Later on, my parents appealed for me to get in to the school by going in to a meeting with some of the senior principles and were able to convince them to let me in. That first sense of achievement was amazing but looking back I feel upset that I only felt as I would succeed if I was accepted in to this school, which of course isn’t true.
When starting year 7 I felt even more pressure because suddenly I was surrounded by people who were smarter than me, this was surprising to me because I had always been top of the class in my old school. This made me feel disheartened and as though I would never be as good as I thought I was and that all of the hard work towards the appeal was perhaps a waste of time if I didn’t feel happy at this new school. However, the teachers at the school were able to understand this and that was the way that everybody felt so they would make sure to adapt to different learning styles to suit everyone in the class.
Are the teachers actually any better?:
My school, in particular likes to pride itself on having teachers with degrees in their subjects and this makes the “better” because they have a greater understanding. This is a lie because it doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you can’t gain the attention of a class then you will never be a “good” teacher. There are some teachers I have had in the past that have been remarkably clever but their attitude and unwillingness to support the class left me hating that subject the whole time I had that teacher. However, there have been some real gems in my school time there who have engaged the class through their personality, dedication and styles of lessons but these aren’t just subject to grammar schools.
Is there a class divide?
Many people still believe for there to be a class divide in to Grammar Schools and Comprehensives, I can safely say that there are people of all classes at my school and we all come from different areas. I come from a rougher area and have never felt as though I do not “belong” at my school. Understandably, there is this idea that grammar schools are only attended by higher classes because you get a “better quality” of education, there are some people who do come from families of middle class (there aren’t any upper class people where I live at all) but that isn’t to say that I can’t go and gain my education at the same rate and quality.
Do they have a better budget?
Another misconception is that we have a lot of money for our school. Now I don’t know whether my school is bad at budgeting or whether it is something to do with out local council and MP’s but for some reason our school does not have enough money for paper It always gets to March time in the school year where we have to start either bringing in our own paper or using scrap worksheets to make our class notes, not to mention the fact that we don’t have enough textbooks so many people resort to buying their own. As well as this the printing budget for the school is very tight and our science department had already spent it by November last year because of all of the homework sheets, work sheets and practise papers that they were giving to all of the year groups. However I am aware that in other schools there is barely any money to split classes in to smaller sizes which is a much bigger problem than our paper complication.
Is there competition?:
When in year 11 I had discovered that there was this sudden rivalry between us and other schools and many teachers were using the excuse of “If you’re struggling, how do you think the rest of the country is finding it”, which is complete bullshit. The fact that teachers were using this as a way of assuring their students that they have taught us well does give an insight to some of the attitudes in grammar schools. I think it is important to say that many people including myself saw through this and realised that we are in no better position than anybody else, as long as everybody works hard we are all equal in skill and ability and your type of school shouldn’t determine that.
In terms of competition within the school there was a use of sets for English and maths, this led to people in higher sets doing more “advanced” work. Initially you can see how this works because you would think that people in the lower sets would get more support. However, in my experience it has led to self-esteem issues and people assuming that just because you did badly in one test you need to be lowered a set. I was very lucky to be in top set for maths but as soon as I got there I realised that I shouldn’t have been there because those people were getting 2 grades above me at least and this defeats the whole point of sets. To then have to work with these people was hard because I could sense that they were getting impatient having to teach me everything that they already knew.
The reason I was never moved down was due to target grades, I was predicted all 8s and 9s from year 7 because I did well in my year 6 SATs in English in maths this meant I was then predicted an 8 in art. Which makes sense right? These meant that in every report that was ever sent home, my grade was always shown in red because it was a 7 (A) instead of an 8 (A*) which is ludicrous but imagine then having to explain this to every family member that wants to read your report and then also having that fear that maybe you aren’t reaching your full potential.
In conclusion I want to say that grammar schools aren’t all they are cracked up to be there is a lot of pressure and competition and even though the grass always look greener, sometimes it’s best to stay where you are. However, I must say that if you think you thrive under pressure then it could be a good decision because going to a grammar school means that I have been stretched and challeneged in ways I didn’t think were possible. So if you think that you would maybe like to consider going to a grammar school for sixth form then consider these points.