Grammar schools by Eric and Halima

Headteacher profileThe Department of Education is planning the expansion and reintroduction of grammar schools within the UK, with a budget of £320 million. We interviewed Sue Maguire the Headteacher of Hatch End High about this topic to hear her views on the matter, alongside Josephine Fok, a parent whose child attends a grammar school in the UK. 

The reasoning behind this reintroduction is the belief that it would increase social mobility, as it would give more opportunities for children from less privileged backgrounds to gain a better education. However, many people disagree with this myth, believing that it would do the very opposite. "I feel very strongly not only do we not need them but they're actually very socially divisive," Ms Maguire stated, sharing the feelings of many others. Schools like Hatch End High School are regularly in the top 10% of all schools nationally and all of our students, including the most able, perform brilliantly in public examinations - as high and often higher than local grammar schools. However, Ms Fok mentioned that the children have more activities and opportunities than those from comprehensive schools, for example they can learn more languages and more "traditional sports.”

The Conservatives believe this expansion for 70,000 pupil places by 2020 will increase social mobility. However, the budget of £320 million will only provide 13,000 places, a quarter of the original prediction. Many believe this budget could be spent on other things. Ms Maguire stated, "That money could be spent on other priorities such as school buildings and smaller class sizes.”  

There has also been a concern about the stresses that grammar schools put on children, particularly aged 10-11, as it puts a lot of pressure on one test that seems like the be-all or end-all. "I'm not against tests - tests are very useful as diagnostic tools," Ms Maguire assured, “we use them frequently to help us support students but, like many others, feel there is a concern that they can be taken too far.” Ms Fok mentioned the high pressure on both her child and her as the parent, as she feels that she must always be there for her child, "leaving no time for me". 

Ms Fok also finds that many grammar school in the UK are in remote locations and difficult to get to, and that the amount of homework set for her child is too much and the teachers are pushy if it is not completed.