New grammars would cause incalculable harm

19th August 2016 at 01:00

Ed Dorrell is right to suggest that an appeal to the heartstrings is important in the grammar schools debate (“Anti-grammar camp must heed Brexit’s lessons”, Editorial, 12 August).

I am proud to have led a comprehensive that Ofsted described as failing in the early days of its journey to becoming one of the highest-performing schools in the city. With the hard work of staff, we changed a culture where teachers, learners and parents had low expectations and few aspirations.

The damage a return to selection would have is incalculable. Remove 25 per cent of the most talented young people – the role models for the future – and you will severely undermine the ability of schools to change the fortunes of whole communities.

Robert Powell
Former headteacher, Staffordshire

We should all, TES included, refuse to debate the benefits of new grammar schools. Instead, debate whether it is a good idea to create the three secondary moderns each new grammar would cause. Secondary moderns have less than their fair share of good teachers, high-achieving pupils and engaged parents, and far more than their fair share of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and with special educational needs. Secondary moderns that are full of pupils who have been labelled as failures.

Ask any secondary modern Year 7 form tutor how their pupils view the impact of grammar schools: this is the “compelling moral argument” that is required.

Roger Broadie
Director, Broadie Associates

Educational history repeats

Cynical educationalists like to muse that government policy goes round in circles. Readers might be interested in this blueprint for regional schools commissioners: “Eight or 10 provincial school boards should be formed…This Board should be administrative; it would represent the State in the country, keeping the Education Minister informed.”

The author? Matthew Arnold. The date? 1868. The outcome? His plan for direct state control of regional education was rejected and, instead, we got local authorities under democratic control. Still, Arnold would be delighted to know his ideas are back in fashion 150 years later!

Adrian Gray
Education Consultant, Retford

Pared-down comparison

I’m in partial agreement with Professor Yong Zhao’s comments that countries should “ignore” Pisa rankings (“Pisa rankings are ‘as useful as student drinking games’ ”, Insight, 12 August). Yes, academics have rightly criticised the statistical techniques used to compile the results, but I wonder if politicians would be as interested in making international comparisons without them.

Take, for example, Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore. Many years ago, these countries reformed their educational systems to focus more on formative assessment without “levels”. One of the many benefits of this is high performance on tests (including Pisa).

Thanks to the guidance of an expert panel on removing levels, we have now done the same. But maybe we should take on board the fact that in Finland and Singapore, standardised test scores are not used to rank students or schools.

Nikki Booth
Head of MFL and music at a secondary school in Staffordshire

Facebook users on “Nearly half of teachers don’t trust exam results

“As I tell my students, exams are typically marked by relatively mediocre individuals who are out to earn a bit of holiday money.”


“That’s what happens when you use ambiguous language in your marking rubric and your exemplar answers don’t make sense.”


“They will be trying to prove their point that exams have been too easy…hate the way they play fast and loose with education.”


And on “Why saying goodbye to students might be harder than you think

“Not normally the emotional type so it shocked me when I had tears in my eyes ! (High pollen count and dust I assure you.)”


“It can be really hard, especially if you have taught them for several years. You get very attached. It is easier if you know they are going off to a positive destination like a good course, apprenticeship or job.”


“I always find this difficult even after 19 years of doing it. I thought it would feel different being the headteacher. It didn’t at all.”


Twitter users respond to “‘Ignore Pisa entirely,’ argues top academic

“Yes, agree. Also, successive gov’ts have used Pisa results to justify major changes to testing and curriculum.”


“Countries that concentrate on Pisa tests create jobs. I want an education system that can create Steve Jobs!”


“But they do prove a useful means by which to berate the UK teaching profession, regardless of their validity.”


From the TES Community forums

Theresa May backs grammar expansion

The Tories want to sell off the state school system – in so far as it still exists.


I went to a very well-known grammar school. The teaching was awful, dictated notes and little to inspire. I have taught in comprehensives for 35 years and seen extraordinary inspiring teaching of all abilities.


I fundamentally disagree with any kind of selection. I sent my son to the nearest school. Bog-standard maybe, but a bright child should be able to do well anywhere.


This is one of those debates that takes place on an idealistic level rather than a realistic one and, as such, completely misses the point. What galls many people I imagine, is the silly argument that grammar schools will aid class/social mobility. [But] who wouldn’t want their children to get the best education and the best opportunities in life?


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