PERSPECTIVE : Learning the Hard Grammar of School Choice

Article excerpt


Most parents want to give their child the best start in life and provide them with the opportunities to fulfil their potential.

I say 'most' parents because it is clear from the feral youths who menace our suburbs and town centres that this is not a goal shared by all parents.

That aside, the majority of parents believe the best way to unlock potential is through a challenging, rounded and enriching education. School doesn't work for everyone and some children who fail to get any qualifications do go on to make it in life, becoming millionaire tycoons or reality TV stars.

Similarly, straight-A students sometimes become serial killers or benefit spongers. But a good education, by and large, is the most accurate barometer of future success that we have.

It explains why most parents are obsessed about the school their children attend and explains the wild panic that sweeps Birmingham playgrounds every year at the mention of grammar selection.

Having attended a boys' grammar and enjoyed my school days tremendously, I have always been a fierce advocate of selection. I passed the 11-plus in one education authority but then moved to another area where selection did not take place until the third year of senior school, at age 13. Again, I was selected for the local grammar and duly moved there.

I was, however, blissfully unaware of the process and although I did sit exams and aptitude tests I had no idea what it was all about and cannot say I felt the least bit pressurised or worried. I was far more concerned about keeping my place on the right wing for the school football team.

So, I have found it very hard to understand all the fuss that is made in Birmingham about grammar school selection. …