Grammar schools London

Grammar schools: why they still trump free schools

By the mid-Sixties, government guidelines had been distributed to local authorities, reflecting the left-leaning educational philosophy of the day, that ordered them to start disbanding the tripartite structure in favour of the all-ability comprehensive school. The death of the grammar was brutal. From a post-war high of 1, 207, numbers almost halved to 675 by the mid-Seventies and reached a low of 150 in the Eighties. However, a small number of local authorities – principally Conservative shire counties – resisted Whitehall pressure and retained, to some extent, a selective system.

Today, 164 grammar schools quirkily remain, with the highest concentrations in areas such as Kent, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Essex, Gloucestershire, Slough, Trafford and Lincolnshire. And, to the horror of opponents, they remain very popular among parents. Figures published in 2011 suggest that almost half the children who pass the eleven-plus – the traditional grammar school entrance exam – fail to get a place.

At some schools, the rejection rate is far higher, with figures compiled by the Telegraph showing, Slough, had 14 applications for every place; neighbouring had 13. At least six more had more than 10 applications for every place.

The sheer popularity of grammars suggests that, for too many parents, the 40-year dream of a comprehensive utopia has not been realised. Nidhi Jaiswal, a mother of two from west London, is typical. Her daughter, Adya, has secured a place at one of the capital’s most sought-after grammars – in Hampstead Garden Suburb – starting in September. The bright 11-year-old took exams for five state grammars, and won places at each before settling on the all-girls’ school.

“She went to a state primary that was rated outstanding by Ofsted, but they didn’t challenge her enough, ” Jaiswal says. “The focus seemed to be on bringing those children who aren’t doing that well up to a certain level rather than really pushing those who were high achieving. We didn’t want to face the same issue in a comprehensive school. If we hadn’t have got a grammar, we would have gone private, but it would have cost a lot of money and meant many sacrifices.”

In recent years, despite the continuing popularity of state-funded grammars, calls for an all-out expansion of academically selective schools have been rejected. After the 1997 general election, Labour introduced legislation banning the opening of any new grammars and drafted rules allowing local communities to petition for the end of selection at existing schools (only one was ever held, in North Yorkshire, and local parents rejected the change by two to one).


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Nicholas Adams de Wolff (born 1970) is a writer, business strategist and marketing executive, and longtime Media and Entertainment industry pioneer. His career spans multiple creative and business platforms, including theatrical, film, fashion, retail, TV, and New...

Post Card Nathan Hale Grammar School in New London Conn
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Shipping by airmail from UK: items normally reach US addresses within a few days but can take longer BOROUGH. Queen Elizabeth's Free Grammar School, Tooley Street. London, 1834 map
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  • Title: A south view of Queen Elizabeth s Free Grammar School in Tooley Street in the Parish of St. Olave, Soutwark; with a plan of the adjacent Neighbourhood
  • Condition: Good; suitable for framing. However, please note: Minor blemishes. Please check the scan for any blemishes prior to making your purchase.
  • Size: 31.5 x 26.5cm, 12.25 x 10.25 inches (Large)
  • Type & Age: Year printed 1834. Antique copperplate engraved print on stiff, good quality paper
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