Uphill struggle to rebuild self-image

20th November 1998 at 00:00
I READ with interest Roger Hale's article which makes a strong case for the retention of selection. This is a view through the rose-tinted spectacles of the grammar-school head. As head of one of the relatively small number of secondary modern schools I experience the realities of the other side.

These include pupils who begin their secondary career labelled as failures and carry their disappointment with them in the form of low self-esteem and poor self-image. Engendering self-belief in them is a major task before they can begin to achieve.

Well-qualified, experienced and committed staff work hard to raise pupils' achievement only to be told that they lack experience with able pupils when they apply for promotion outside the school. Having taught both ends of the ability range I know which task is greater.

Any attempt to develop continuity between the primary and secondary school is hampered by not knowing until the last minute exactly which children will be coming as appeals procedures are invoked and parents seek an escape route from the dreaded secondary modern. Pupils and parents are unwilling to consider that the secondary modern is a final destination and make no effort even to visit the school on open nights.

There are many positive points for those of us who have chosen to work in such schools and the rewards can be enormous. We should, however, be in no doubt that where grammar schools exist and particularly in those areas which still have a selection for all at 11-plus, the reality for the majority of pupils, teachers and parents is very different from that expressed by the grammar-school lobby.

PH Doyle Headteacher St Antony's RC High School Trafford

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