EDUCATION MATTERS: Time to Specialise - in Semantics and a Bit of New Funding; NEVER MIND THE BULLOCK
Byline: Plain speaking from ex-teacher Brenda Bullock
After the 1944 Education Act, which promised free secondary education for all, there were mainly two types of school: the grammar schools and the secondary modern schools.
Birmingham, more fortunate than many, had a raft of other specialist schools: there were two technical schools (in Bordesley Green and Handsworth) which took boys at 13 after an entrance exam, to study either building or engineering, finding them apprenticeships in local firms when they left at 16.
There were specialist art schools (Moseley School of Art) and commercial schools (in Aston and Sparkhill), which were also entered by means of an entrance test, as were the grammar schools.
Secondary modern schools catered for those children who went to no sort of specialist school. Then, in the 1970s, came the shift to comprehensive education, when all schools were rebranded as comprehensive and no entrance exams were set, apart from for the few grammar schools which still held on by their fingernails in a few places in the country.
By 2000, however, the wheel seemed to have come full circle, with comprehensive schools being seen as giving poor value for money and turning out such a large number of illiterate and under-educated pupils that public opinion demanded change.
Thus came into being the new flagship of excellence, the "specialist school". These schools specialised in all manner of things, from performing arts, technology, sport, arts, mathematics. Anything, it seems, that looks good on the signboard outside the school, (but not being allowed to specialise, of course, in the general academic curriculum of the old grammar schools).
Naturally, selection was not to be allowed for these specialist schools. The Government favoured selection by aptitude, but was too afraid of its own left-wing MPs and the teachers' unions to do more than suggest the arbitrary figure of ten per cent for selection, and it stuck to this figure in spite of vociferous campaigns from left-wingers, still lost in their 1960s Marxist fog. …