Big Debate: Should grammar schools be reintroduced in Newham?

PUBLISHED: 14:00 17 August 2016 | UPDATED: 15:10 17 August 2016

Prime Minister Theresa May     Picture: Neil Hall/PA

Prime Minister Theresa May Picture: Neil Hall/PA

PA/Press Association Images

Since Theresa May became prime minister in July, a debate has ensued about whether grammar schools could be reintroduced across the country.

Education secretary Justine Greening has said she is “open-minded” about the possibility of selective state schools, while many Tory MPs have voiced support.

We asked: should grammar schools be reintroduced to Newham?

Colin Grainger – former Plaistow Grammar pupil ex-Recorder editor

Colin Grainger, left, and Olivia Hartigan, rightColin Grainger, left, and Olivia Hartigan, right

As a former Plaistow Grammar School pupil from 1965 until 1972, I believe Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to reintroduce grammar schools is worthy of consideration.

She says the move will “make sure people have the opportunity to excel.”

I came from what would now be described as “deprived background.” But I have never considered I had a deprived childhood.

I came from what still is an amazing community, North Woolwich and Silvertown, And my Drew Primary School days gave me the chance to attend Plaistow Grammar.

It was a wonderful institution full of great teachers and prepared me my future and gave me life skills. I was the only person in my year to go into the profession I had always wanted to be a part of.

My last year there was the year my school turned comprehensive. In my 40-plus years at the Recorder, I saw Newham education decline to the lowest levels in the country. But as someone who has always vowed to accentuate the positive in Newham’s young people, I also watched with great pride as the standards of education rose, especially over the last 30 years, to where they are now, so I also support the current education system.

For me it is a matter of giving more choices.

Access to grammars is another way of allowing youngsters to achieve their potential. Young people need to be challenged and helped to flourish and that is what thousands of good teachers have done over generations.

Every child should be allowed to rise as far as their talents will take them and birth should never be a barrier.

Thousands of children would be able to take advantage of increased social mobility and opportunities that re-introducing grammar schools could create.

Olivia Hartigan – Newham Green Party

When you were 11 years old, what were you good at? What did you find difficult? Has that changed? When I was 11, I found learning a second language almost impossible, but I went on to earn a degree in foreign languages. As a former teacher, I know that to decide at such a young age what children are capable of is not only unfair but irresponsible.

Grammar schools decide which children are likely to succeed academically when they are only 11 years old with a single test. For those who fail this test, opportunities can be taken away from them and they can lose confidence in their abilities at an age when they are only just beginning to explore learning.

The idea that grammar schools help bright children from disadvantaged areas is a fallacy. They hand pick academically gifted children and then claim the children did well because of the school. In fact, those children could be underachieving, as research shows that all children actually do better when in mixed ability settings.

To assume that children only learn academic lessons at school is also untrue. Emotional, social and physical skills are all developed at school. Children develop these at different paces and not always in line with their academic development.

That’s why the Green Party says no to grammar schools. Failing schools should be improved for all children, not just those lucky few who are good at passing tests.

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