Monday, November 26, 2007

Selection implies rejection

Geoffrey Alderman brings us a performance of two utterly standard moves in the grammar schools debate.

(1) In the face of an academic study, he replies with his own personal experience of school and growing up, from which – naturally – wider conclusions can be safely drawn.

(2) He ignores the fact that selection implies rejection: for every grammar school, there are two secondary moderns. Given “the reality of differential access to the educational opportunities grammar schools provide”, he suggests:

The antidote is, of course, to build more schools of this type, and, thereby, to restore to all today's youngsters the same advantages that I enjoyed - free - 50 years ago.

Yes, let’s have more selective schools. Then “all” children will be able to go to them.


Professor Geoffrey Alderman said...


According to this logic, everyone should be admitted to university, regardless of ability. Is this what you really mean?

The grammar school that I attended enabled pupils from the poorest backgrounds to fully achieve their potential. This was real social mobility.

Geoffrey Alderman

Tom Freeman said...

Hi Geoffrey

That depends on the assumptions that secondary school admissions and university admissions should work in the same ways. But the differences are vast: by 18, one's strengths and weaknesses are much clearer, and one is old enough to make one's own decisions about what to spend the next few years doing.

Would you support selective primary schooling? If not, then we draw the same line - just in different places.

I think the majority of the educational disadvantage that poverty tends to inflict (note I say 'tends') takes place before secondary school - but even at 11, there's still scope for slower pupils to blossom.

If they find themselves stuck in a low-ability school, that's so very much the harder.

Incidentally, I do believe in selective secondary education: just within schools (i.e. setting) rather than between them. It's a much more efficient and flexible type of selection.