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Grammar Schools

Grammar Schools

Grammar Schools became popular in the 16th century. These schools were usually established in towns and in most cases provided places for non fee-paying scholars. Some of these schools became fee-paying public schools in the 19th century. Others were gradually absorbed into the state system. After the passing of the 1944 Education Act, the name grammar was applied to those schools that provided an education for children who had passed the 11+ examination.

Ivanhoe Grammar School

Ivanhoe Grammar School is an independent, co-educational, day school, located in Ivanhoe (Buckley House and The Ridgeway Campus) and Mernda (Plenty Campus), both located in the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Founded in 1915 as St James' Grammar School for boys, Ivanhoe Grammar is a school of the Anglican Church of Australia, and currently caters for approximately 2,200 students from the Early Learning Centre to Year 12, across four campuses. [3]

The school is affiliated with the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, [4] the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA), [5] the Junior School Heads Association of Australia (JSHAA), [6] and is a founding member of the Associated Grammar Schools of Victoria (AGSV). [7] The school is also a member of the G20 Schools Group. Ivanhoe Grammar School is also one of only four Round Square schools in the state of Victoria, [8] and has been an International Baccalaureate World School since December 1994. [9]

Grammar schools

grammar schools. In Roman times schools of grammar taught language and literature. This type of school and its curriculum was adopted by early Christian educators, such as Alcuin. In 826 Pope Eugenius required bishops to ensure that grammar schools were founded in their dioceses.

The term was first used in England in the 14th cent. Grammar schools were under ecclesiastical supervision, but endowments were made by other institutions, such as guilds, charities, and hospitals. The grammar school was recognized as providing a training for future churchmen: Henry VI founded Eton College (1440), and Cardinal Wolsey Ipswich Grammar School (1528). From Tudor times, merchants, traders, and a number of women founded schools—Peter Blundell at Tiverton (1599) and Lady Alice Owen at Islington (1613).

After the Restoration, the grammar schools declined: they were described by Lord Chief Justice Kenyon in 1795 as 𠆎mpty walls without scholars, and everything neglected but the receipt of salaries and emoluments’. Attempts to widen the curriculum to allow mathematics and modern languages to be taught were rejected in the Eldon judgment 1805 but in 1840 a Grammar School Act allowed a wider range of subjects. Some of the schools had developed into non-local boarding schools: from these emerged the public school. The Endowed Schools Act 1869 helped to reform grammar schools, following the report of the Taunton Commission in 1868, including provision for girls. The 1902 Education Act established a system of municipal and county schools alongside the older grammar schools, which were popularly known as grammar schools. Because of the spread of comprehensive education from the mid-1960s, by 1990 only about 7 per cent of local authorities had retained grammar schools. Growing disenchantment with comprehensive education led to the grammar schools being regarded in the later 1990s with more favour.

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The south

Education in the South during the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century reflected the region's paternalist and agrarian society. In 1779 Thomas Jefferson encouraged education reform in Virginia to spread knowledge to a "free" society. Jefferson's plan included a free elementary education for all white boys and girls as well as the founding of twenty state-supported secondary schools that provided a grammar school education for talented white boys. But Jefferson's ideas on state-sponsored education did not pass in the Virginia legislature, and there was little discussion of a state tax-supported system in Virginia until the early decades of the nineteenth century. Any education received by slaves during this period was minimal because most state laws forbade it. Even so, some basic literacy was taught to slaves on a few plantations and farms. By the Civil War, only 5 percent of blacks were literate.

In the eighteenth century and through the antebellum period, education in the South was not considered a civic concern (as in New England) but instead mostly an individual and private matter. Much of the teaching came from informal sources, such as the family and the church. The planter class hired tutors to provide their sons with an education based on humanism—mainly focusing on the Latin and Greek classics, as well as history, philosophy, law, music, and science. Southern aristocrats' daughters studied French from the plantation tutor. More often, however, girls were taught manners and other social graces from their mothers. In large towns such as Savannah and Charleston, some formal education took place in the guise of new private schools advertising a broad curriculum. Similar to the mid-Atlantic states, most of the formal education in the South was provided by churches and philanthropic societies, such as the SPG, which established several charity schools. With this tradition of both informal and formal education, basic literacy rates among white males were surprisingly high. In the South Carolina backcountry, for example, literacy rates for white males may have reached 80 percent.

As demand for skilled labor increased during the colonial era, the Southern colonies legally established an apprenticeship system. This marked the first time the Southern colonies enforced education. The system was put in place not only to provide an opportunity for those who wanted to learn a trade, but also for orphans and the destitute. Most children of the rural poor, however, had no formal education because farms were too scattered to establish a community school. In Virginia and Maryland, however, wealthy planters sometimes bequeathed funds to establish "free schools" for the poor. These schools taught the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic. If a family could afford it, a small fee was charged, but otherwise it was free. Even though formal schooling was limited in the colonial and Revolutionary periods, the South was nevertheless influenced by the common school movement of the 1830s, with common schools emerging especially in North Carolina and the upper regions of the Piedmont.


30% of the public believe that the government should encourage more schools to select by academic ability and build more grammar schools.

20% believe that the government should retain the existing grammar schools, but should not allow more selective schools or new grammar schools to be built

26% believe the government should stop schools selecting by academic ability and the existing grammar schools should be opened to children of all abilities

Expanding a school&rsquos premises and additional sites

Under January 2014 regulations, governing bodies of all maintained schools can enlarge the school premises without the need for a statutory process in some circumstances.

This applies to grammar schools as to other local authority maintained schools.

Before making any changes, governing bodies must ensure that a number of criteria are fulfilled, including that the admissions authority is content for the published admissions number (PAN) to be changed where this forms part of expansion plans.

Expansions that do not require a physical enlargement to the premises of the school are not covered by the regulations. Such an increase in pupil numbers may be achieved solely by increasing the PAN in line with the School Admissions Code.

Community, foundation and voluntary schools

In the case of community, foundation and voluntary schools, local authorities can also propose that a school&rsquos premises be enlarged by following a streamlined statutory process set out in regulations.


Academies wishing to enlarge their premises need to seek approval from the Secretary of State, through the Education Funding Agency (EFA). They are generally not required to submit a formal business case to the EFA unless the expansion is very large scale or takes pupil numbers over 2,000.

Expanding onto an additional site

Those proposing the expansion of an existing local authority maintained school onto an additional site &ldquoneed to ensure that the new provision is genuinely a change to an existing school and not a new school&rdquo.

Similarly, information on the stages of the statutory process states that the expansion of an existing academy onto a satellite state &ldquowill only be approved if it is a genuine continuance of the same school.&rdquo

The same criteria are listed as being used by the Secretary of State when deciding whether to approve the expansion of academy schools onto satellite sites.

Ending selective admission arrangements

Sections 104 to 109 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 make provision for parental ballots to determine whether particular grammar schools or groups of grammar schools should retain their selective admission arrangements.

A ballot can only be held if at least 20% of eligible parents have signed a petition requesting such a ballot. The detailed arrangements for the ballot are set out in regulations.

Governing bodies of local authority maintained grammar schools may also propose ending the selective admission arrangements at a grammar school by following a statutory process. Information on the stages of the statutory process is provided in Department for Education guidance.


Provisions allowing governing bodies of maintained grammar schools to propose removing selection, and provisions relating to parental ballots, do not apply to academies.

Selective schools that convert to academy status are required to remain subject to the same provisions for removing selection as they were subject to as a maintained school, through their funding agreements.


The history of the founding of the Grammar school is tied up with the early fortunes of the Colony of Sierra Leone and the early history of the other Institution founded by the CMS around the same time, the Christian Institution that became Fourah Bay College.

Bear with me therefore while I lead you through the emergence of the CMS and its links with and concentration on Christian education in Sierra Leone leading to the founding of our beloved Sierra Leone Grammar School.

The CMS started in 1799 as the “Society for Missions to Africa and the East”. It was founded by the Abolitionists, people like William Wilberforce and Henry Thornton who was the first treasurer of the new society, and Chairman of the Sierra Leone Company which ruled Sierra Leone at its inception. The name of the society was later changed to the CMS. Soon after it’s founding, the CMS turned its attention to Africa and its first missionaries were sent to Africa in 1804. The attention to Africa was greatly stimulated by the founding of the colony of Sierra Leone and a sense of commitment of its founders and early sponsors to bring their own version of advancement to the new settlement. Thus their first effort was a mission station around that area, in the Rio Pongas where an earlier missionary’s offer to do translations from Soso decided the issue. The Rio Pongas mission failed to make any dent in an area dominated by Islam and the Sierra Leone colony thus quickly became the main focus for Christianity and its attendant educational efforts.

The CMS had started a Christian Institution at Leicester in 1815, intended for “the maintenance and education of African children and for the diffusion of Christianity and useful knowledge among the Natives” temporary buildings were erected on Leicester Peak and the school started in 1816 with about 350 children of both sexes. They were being taught basic crafts n with a heavy emphasis on Christianity. The Institution literally collapsed in 1820 and its buildings were converted into a hospital for Liberated Africans. The Institution was transferred to Regent but on the death of the Rev W.A. B. Johnson who supervised the school, the Christian Institution was abandoned in 1826. In 1827, the CMS sent Rev. Haensel to revive the Institution to serve as a feeder to a proposed college at Islington, England where they would obtain higher education. The Regent buildings being beyond repair, The CMS bought property of late Governor Turner at what was called Farren Point at Fourah Bay for 330 pounds and thus the Fourah Bay College started as a revival of the Christina Institution. The intention by this time was to provide as high a standard of education as possible, preparing its products to be teachers and missionaries to their own countrymen. Instruction included Reading, writing, music, arithmetic, geography and a healthy dose of Bible history and doctrines. The initial emphasis on crafts in the Christian Institution had thus been abandoned and the first products of Fourah Bay actually found difficulty gaining employment in a fledgling colony, which had very few positions for people with their kind of education.

By the 1840s, it had become evident that the academic standard of Fourah Bay College was getting much higher than that which obtained in the regular school system. This meant that it would become difficult to recruit new entrants into FBC from the existing school system. It was therefore necessary to establish a second tier school, the real meaning of secondary school, to bridge the gap between the primary schools and the College. As the CMS began to actively pursue this idea, it received assistance from another organization in London called “The African Native Agency Committee” which provided 150 pounds sterling per annum for a three-year period to train four African youths at FBC or at the proposed grammar school. Thus the CMS pressed on with the plan and procured land at Regent Square in Freetown, the source of the famous term, Regentonian. It should be interesting to note that this building, offered by the colonial government at an annual rent of two shillings and sixpence, a token sum, used to be the residence of the Governor of the Colony until 1841, just four years before the Grammar school started. It used to be called the “house of arches” due to the imposing arches on all sides of the building.

From 1840 -1858, FBC was headed by Rev. Edward Jones, an African American who provided opportunities for the students to train as teachers by apprenticing them to teach in Sunday schools and employing them as district visitors. It was in Rev. Jones’ tenure that the Grammar School was born. Fourteen junior students of FBC were transferred from that college to start the Grammar School. Let us make an analysis of those 14 foundation pupils. Five of them came from the Gallhinas. Two of these five had previously been at FBC two years earlier, the sons of one of the rulers of the Gallhinas and their last name was Gomez. The other three had only recently been secured by the CMS after one of the schooners fighting against the slave trade in the Gallhinas had brought these boys to Freetown with the approval of their father, the Gallhinas king. The CMS hoped that these boys would serve as a beacon for the spread of Christianity to those areas if they were given western education and Christianity. Thus the idea of educating the sons of rulers in the interior as a means of advancing western values and Christianity to those areas, the same idea that later led to the founding of Bo School in 1906, had found a ready pursuit in the Grammar School.

Of the other nine foundation pupils, three of them – Joseph Flyn, Charles Macauley and Charles Nelson – were from Kissy. Daniel Carol came from Freetown and Robert Cross, who was a man of thirty when enrolled, came from Fourah Bay. Two others, James Quaker and Thomas Smith, came from Kent. One student named Frederick Karli came from Port Loko. The Port Loko entrant needs some explanation. Missionary work had started in 1840 at Port Loko by the Rev. Schlenker leading to the establishment of a Church and school there.

In all then, six of the foundation pupils or 43% of them came from what became the Provinces of Sierra Leone. The Grammar School could thus be said to have pioneered the way towards a much more forceful movement towards national integration even at its very inception in 1845.

The first principal of the school was Rev. Thomas Peyton and the curriculum represented a high standard of grammar school education with subjects in English grammar and composition, Greek, mathematics, geography, Bible history, astronomy, doctrine, English history, writing and music. Latin was later introduced as a voluntary class subject. Euclid and algebra were added later still. The early pupils distinguished themselves earning favorable comparisons between their performance and those of English students from Principal Peyton, at a time when racist perceptions of African mental inferiority were very high. The establishment of Christianity was a dominant focus of the new dispensation so that the new pupils had to become Christians. Two of the pupils were baptized on 14 September 1845 and nine were candidates for Holy Communion by that time.

The Grammar School set the tone for secondary education throughout Sierra Leone and West Africa, particularly because for twenty years it was the only secondary school in West Africa. By 1849 its roll included pupils from the entire sub-region of West Africa many of them fee paying students while a few were financially supported by the CMS, the African Native Agency mentioned earlier and some philanthropic bodies. At the end of 1850, the enrolment was fifty-five scholars and school fees collected totaled 187 pounds 16 shillings and 2d.

An attempt was made in 1851 when the CMS instructed Principal Peyton to introduce practical education training to the curriculum. Peyton bought a school farm of six acres at King Tom and pupils worked on the farm growing cotton. In 1853, the CMS sent a trained industrial education specialist C. Hammond to Freetown to open a model industrial school at Kissy, teaching mostly practical arts. The products of this school were expected to go on to the Grammar School to be trained as teachers and later to FBC. This program never worked well at the Kissy School. The truth of the matter was that the British were trying to introduce to Sierra Leone a pattern of industrial education with which they themselves had no experience and therefore no capability to provide the right sense of direction in this matter.

The Sierra Leone Grammar School was also in the forefront in teacher training a few years after its inception. The school was divided in the 1850s into a teacher training section on the one hand, and on the other a general education and FBC entrance preparation section. In the teacher training section students took English, arithmetic, geography, western civilization, scripture, history and school management. To these same subjects were added mathematics, classics and Greek Testament in the general education and FBC entrance preparation section. The Grammar school thus led the way in training teachers for particularly the primary schools in Sierra Leone and this gave a tremendous boost to the quality of primary education in Sierra Leone. The Grammar school also supplied the educated cadres to what became the backbone to the incipient middle class in particularly the British West African colonies in the Gambia, Gold Coast and Nigeria.

The quality of education at the Grammar school was very high, so that when the CMS began to have problems of staffing it decided that the Grammar School was good enough and that Fourah Bay College should be closed, which was done temporarily in 1858.Indeed in 1846, Governor Macdonald gave personal prizes of five pounds, then a princely sum to deserving students at the Grammar School and at Fourah Bay College, a big recognition in the Colony for deserving students. The Rev Peyton, the first principal, died on 14 June 1853 at the School and was buried in Freetown. So close was the administration of the school with FBC (Peyton had come to the school from FBC) that it was the Principal of FBC, Rev. E. Jones, who supervised the school until the new Principal, Rev. John Milward arrived in November 1855.

Funding for the Grammar School, as for FBC was initially borne by the CMS. The Grammar School instituted fee paying and before 1850 most of its students were paying fees. By 1850 the support of the CMS had become restricted to paying the salary of the European principal of the Grammar school. A healthy collection of school fees sustained the school.

The type of grammar school education that the Grammar school sustained had some perhaps unfortunate consequences. We had mentioned earlier the failure of the attempt to introduce the practical skills like farming and carpentry. As the failure of this attempt left the Grammar School with offering only ‘academic’ education with what one governor later referred to as ‘rote learning of Greek and Latin’, the products of the school began to be removed from considering the practical arts as part of education and to believe that the learning of Latin and Greek was the most desirable thing. Attitudes were being formed related to class, which snubbed the practical pursuits as being for the lower class. This was reinforced as the newly Liberated Africans were funneled into schools meant specifically for them and the Grammar school and FBC were reserved for what Sumner, the main historian of education in Sierra Leone, calls “the better class of natives.” These attitudes took hold and perhaps contributed to the denigration of practical arts, so harmful to our development today.

However, by the beginning 1860s, some of the pupils were being trained in navigation. Four of them – Tobiah Brown of Kissy, Alfred Lewis, Francis Joaque and F. Gibson, were admitted on board the HMS Rattlesnake to acquire practical training in navigation. As the school grew, 87 pupils by 1863, it became necessary to divide it up into a Preparatory and Upper school. Many of the senior pupils, who had been acting as pupil teachers of the younger ones, had left and this created a staffing problem, necessitating the division of the school. And the school was prospering, taking in fees that year of over four hundred pounds. It then became possible by the 1870s to send some of the more promising students for further training in England at Islington and other centers. Thus Moses Bentick, Obadiah Moore, later to become principal, William Gates, John Bernard Bowen, M.J. Marke were all sent to England for higher education.

A profile of Rev. Obadiah Moore would give some indication of the relationship between pupil and teacher roles and the movement of students through the school by the 1870s. Born at the village of York in 1849, Obadiah joined the school as Obadiah Punch in May 1863 at around age 14, sponsored by the CMS. After three years as a pupil there, he was transferred to Fourah Bay College in January 1867 and he studied there for another three years. He returned to the Grammar School, as Junior tutor in 1870, the senior tutor then being Mr. John Tilly Asgil. When Asgil left the school for another vocation, Moore became Senior Tutor in 1871. He was then sent to England together with Canon Spain in July 1875 and spent 18 months at Monkton Coombe College at Bath, Somerset where he obtained the Certificate of the Senior Oxford Local Examination. He returned to the school at the end of 1876 to take up his position as Senior Tutor. In 1877 he was ordained a pastor and attached to Christ Church. He left the school and accepted the pastorate of St. Matthews in Sherbro in 1880. When Principal Quaker died in 1882, Obadiah Moore was made Principal. In this profile one can see the relationship between FBC and the school coming in stark relief right down to the end of the nineteenth century. By 1905 when George Garrett took over as Principal, he had seven African tutors, al graduates of Durham University through Fourah Bay College.

One notable deviation occurred with respect to the mainstream education for which the Grammar School had become traditional. Under the principalship of Rev. James Quaker, a printing press was started in the school in 1871. The instructor in charge of the press was named Mr. James Millar and he hailed from Waterloo. The press gave birth two years later to a twice-monthly newspaper titled “The Ethiopia” edited by the Principal. The choice of “Ethiopia” is significant here, for educated Africans in the Diaspora as well as in Africa identified their indigenous advancement with Ethiopia, the oldest surviving independent state in Africa, the seat of one of the earliest civilizations of the world. This was undoubtedly an expression of African aspirations in the new dispensation of colonial rule, which came very early in Sierra Leone.

The newspaper the Ethiopia brought even greater popularity to the Grammar School. It brought resources too, for the finds that it brought in made it possible for some of the school’s staff to be supported to acquire further training at Institutions in England like the one at Islington. Again, the Grammar school had pioneered in Africa one of the pillars of democracy, a vibrant press.

Similarly so it was the Grammar School, which pioneered the Boys Scout Movement in Sierra Leone, for that movement was initiated by Principal G.G. Garrett in 1908, only one year after the parent movement was started by Lord Baden-Powell in England.

The call for diverse education other than ‘academic’ education which would better fit the products for employment continued throughout the life of the school, first advanced, as mentioned earlier, by the CMS and attempted sporadically by them with the setting up of the Model School at Kissy in 1850. By the 1920s this call was earnestly taken up by the products of the Grammar School themselves. To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the School in 1945, one of the Alumni A.E. Tuboku-Metzger, MBE, JP MA, wrote a surviving treatise titled Historical Sketch of the Sierra Leone Grammar School, 1845-1935, which has become a major source of reference on the school. His admonition in this pamphlet, echoing the thinking of the leading alumni of the School, is worthy of lengthy quotation. He maintained:

We strongly need science and industrial training in the School. There are those among our friends of the white race and amongst our own people who assert with a good degree of earnestness that there is no difference between the white man and the black man. This sounds very pleasant to the ear and tickles the fancy, and may be so in intellectual training but when we apply the test of cold logic to it we must acknowledge that there is a difference, not an inherent one, or one belonging to our nature, not a racial one, but one growing out of unequal opportunities. We have not the opportunities of the white man, and our weak point has been in our failing to recognize the difference. Our education has begun too nearly at the point where the white man has reached after years of toil. Behind the present education of the Englishman are hundreds of years of toil, suffering, sacrifice and economy. Industrial and scientific training backs his present education and he has been taught to recognize the dignity of labor. It is true that we have white men among us whose education is only literary but they have thousands of their race who maintain the industries of their country for the need of all.

The present education is one of mental development, handicapped by prejudice and lack of employment, which tend to discourage the whole life of the student. We want mental development, and need professional men and women and those of the pen but we need also scientific and industrial education, and the man with the hoe and machete we need also mental development tied to heart and hand training, which will be our salvation.

These were weighty words indeed. They were echoed by the then principal of the school Rev. T.S. Johnson, MA, BD, that great educationist who rose to become the first African Asst. Anglican Bishop of Sierra Leone. In his annual report for the school in 1935, Rev. Johnson averred that people have come to realize that education demanded more than a mastery of educational principles. Living in an age of revolutionary changes, Rev. Johnson warned that the new products of the school would have to adjust to vastly different conditions from those experienced by their forebears at the Grammar School. Drastic changes in the final outcome of their education were necessary to meet these new challenges rather than what he called “a blind following of tradition, however entrenched it may be”. Of course by tradition here he meant what had become the traditional education of the Grammar School, the ‘academic’ type of education. Boys were leaving school without prospect of employment and so their education should not end up merely loading them ‘with a quantity of academic stuff ’but to prepare them for the varied needs of life which were often non-academic.

Some attempts were made to address these concerns. Weaving and spinning was introduced by the vice principal of the school in 1927. Rev. T.S. Johnson himself as principal attempted to revive carpentry and introduce basket making in the school’s curriculum. Clubs like agriculture, carpentry and poult5ry were introduced into the social education program in order to keep the spirit alive. These never took hold as the grammar school type of education had by now become deep rooted in the curriculum and in the psyche of the majority of those who supported the school.

The printing press however continued to remain important and Principal P.H. Wilson saw to it that the press was expanded to include regular instruction. Bookbinding, cardboard modeling and elementary arts were being taught by the end of the 1930s decade. Alas, however the instructor, Mr. Clay died suddenly in 1942 and with him went the printing program of the school.

In as far as the academic tradition remained, the Sierra Leone Grammar School excelled and has continued to do so.

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Grammar schools were established in the UK in medieval times to teach the classics – at that time classical languages, Latin and later Ancient Greek. Remember the bible was first published in the vernacular in 1522, early medieval times. This became a tipping point for modern language and European trading evolution for the UK, Europe and beyond. Education had, up until this point, been exclusively reserved for priests and dignitaries, who read the bible, scripture and classics in Latin or Ancient Greek.

Secondary school children in library

Come the Victorian times the grammar school curriculum had evolved to take in English, European languages, mathematics, history, geography and natural sciences. Grammar schools were now prominent throughout English speaking countries. As British imperialism was at its peak, this was a considerable number. The grammar school system of education therefore became revered internationally and associated with being British. To add context again to this, the industrial revolution, science, engineering and medicine were at the fore front of British economics, the implication being that good education leads to a healthy economy.

In the late Victorian era grammar schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were reorganised to provide secondary school education. By the mid-1940s grammar schools were one of the three types of secondary schools and formed the Tripartite System, the other two types being secondary technical and secondary modern schools. The difference with grammar schools was that they now became academically selective, meaning that pupils had to pass an 11 -plus examination in order to attend one. Born out of the 1944 Education Reform Act, the idea of the 11 plus exam was that it would test appropriate skills to get the best fit with one of the three types of schooling available in the Tripartite System. The idea was to test skills and intelligence not financial means. In an economic climate where Europe needed to be re-built after WWII and there was a demand for white collar and blue collar workers in theory the Tripartite System should have worked.

Under Conservative governments from 1951-1964 this was the prevalent system, but by 1965 when Labour came to power it was actively discouraged, it was seen as a schooling system that favoured the elite and wealthy. Labour formally abolished grammar schools in 1976 giving way to the Comprehensive System.

Comprehensive schools do select pupils on the basis of academic achievement or aptitude rather selection is based on catchment areas. Around 90% of secondary school students attend comprehensive schools in the UK. The remaining 10% of former grammar schools have either: remained state grammar schools and are allowed to expand as such or become, fee paying (or independent) grammar schools, academy schools, free schools, or special schools (catering for children with special needs).

So why you may ask all the fuss over Nicky Morgan’s recent decision to allow a ‘new grammar school’. Well as you may recall they were banned in 1976, which gave birth to comprehensive schools. The legal argument over granting the school is in fact that it forms part of an annexe to an existing grammar school. But, some see this as an exploited loop-hole, which will open up old selection processes that restrict talented pupils because they are poor. And the link with poverty and poor education, is plain to see particularly in war ridden third world countries. In an environment that lacks parental support all children at primary school age would struggle to flourish. The use of streaming at Key Stage One is meant to help identify those that are doing well, and those that need help. However this doesn’t change the impact on classroom success for KS1 aged children, parental support contributing 85%. The test of financial means therefore becomes a little Victorian, because the proletarian (the majority of us) has to work, meaning that most of us are either short on time, on money, or money or both.

Education systems that stream on ability, which both comprehensive and grammar schools do, therefore provide an active way to help children develop at a pace that benefits them.

We hope that you as school teachers and leaders continue to encourage and support all children regardless of means – and political hot potatoes!

Where did Grammar Schools come from?

I was a little surprised yesterday when a man who is much involved with educational policy making asked me to explain the origins of grammar schools. My surprise was not as great as his when, having thought these were the ‘good parts’ of the 1944 Education Act, I said that the oldest known grammar school in England is St. Peter’s School in York that dates from the 6th Century, probably having been founded at the same time as the Abbey itself.

I then went on to explain that many other grammar schools were established by the monasteries over the next seven centuries. Their specific purpose had been to educated future priests in the use of the Latin language (all services were then conducted in Latin), which was also the language of diplomacy in a Europe comprised of numerous sub-language groups. Youngsters coming in as novitiates to the monasteries found that the older monks literally ‘beat’ Latin into their young charges through hours and hours and hours of endless repetition. For centuries, right up to the Reformation, education in grammar schools was about just that – repetition, memorisation and the development of oratorical skills. It was not about establishing new knowledge, or even about thinking for oneself. A grammar school education was an essential initiation into the language and way of thinking of the aristocracy, which saw a feudal landowner and a Bishop as the natural apex of society. To understand the niceties of Latin grammar became the essential skill for aspiring young men.

The Reformation, largely coinciding with the Renaissance, challenged the ‘no change’ assumptions that had dominated English thought for nearly ten centuries. It gave Henry VIII the excuse to dissolve the monasteries and, from the sale of their lands (thought to have been about one-quarter of all the lands in England) pay off many of his debts, finance the cost of his navy, and the mounting cost of foreign wars.

The monastic grammar schools largely collapsed in the process. It was the boy king, Edward VI who succeeded his father in 1547 who started to use some of the money from the monasteries to endow a number of new semi-secular grammar schools known appropriately as Edward VI Grammar Schools. Shakespeare was to attend one of these a few years later in Stratford-on-Avon, probably being every creation of an older monastic school. Some of these still survive. Tudor merchants, no longer able to endow monasteries where monks would pray for their souls, many followed Edward’s example and endowed new grammar schools in the second part of the 16th Century to provide free education for deserving boys.

The monks, having been abolished, there was a problem as to who would teach in such schools, and what they would teach Roger Ascham, an outstanding classical scholar, formerly tutor to Queen Elizabeth and a leading Protestant theologian (i.e. a man who believed that the individual is responsible directly to God for his actions, not mediated by a priest) wrote the first book in English on how to teach – this was The Scholemaster published in 1570. In this Ascham set out three principles – it was more important to create “hard wits” than “quick wits” i.e. it was more important for people to be able to think well, rather than superficially. Secondly, he insisted that pupils should be helped to learn, rather than terrified by failure. It was his third principle which was so amazing. Ascham was convenienced that learning from a book, or from a teacher, was twenty times as effective as learning from experience. Why? The answer is curious. “I was once in Italy myself”, he wrote, “but I thank God that my abode there was but nine days”. Apparently this scholar from damp and tempered England where no men, and certainly no women, ever took their clothes off in public, was appalled by the lasciviousness of the statues, the writings and the paintings that archaeologists were recovering from the dust of ancient Rome, and the fascination these held for lecherous 16th century men. “I saw in that little time, in one city, more liberty to sin than ever I heard in our noble city of London in nine years”, sniffed the puritanical Ascham who went on to conclude that it was the job of the schoolmaster, therefore, to censor what it is that students study.

Knowledge, pre-processed by teachers, became the guiding principle of the Elizabethan grammar schools.

Three-quarters of a century later the puritan theologian, philosopher and (for a time) statesman, John Milton, proposed that such a classical curriculum be emerged in what he proposed as Academies where parity of esteem would be given to both artisan and academic studies. Charles II and the Stuart aristocracy had no patients with such an idea seeing the classical curriculum as the means to maintain the separation of aristocracy and gentry from the mass of the people. Increasingly over the next hundred years the steadily growing significance of the business and industrial community in England began to show the irrelevance of much of that classical curriculum. It started with the teaching of John Bunyan and his Pilgrim’s Progress, and steadily intruded into the upper ranks of society. In 1746 the Earl of Chesterfield could write to his son “Do not imagine that the knowledge which I so much recommend to you, is confined to books… the knowledge of the world is only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet. Books alone will never teach it to you but they will suggest many things to your observation which might otherwise escape you”.

By the late 1700s many old grammar schools simply disappeared as more and more parents who earlier would have seen the social advantage of a grammar school education, now urged their sons to get hands-on experience at an early age. Most popular for the gentry and aristocracy was to gain a place for a son as a midshipman in the Navy. Winchester College received only nine pupils in the last years of the eighteenth century. Grammar schools fell further into decline when the citizens of Leeds, anxious that their grammar school (set up in 1550) should be able to teach mathematics and foreign languages were over-ruled by an act of Parliament which decreed (and lasted until 1844) that no grammar school could teach anything other than Latin and Greek.

In 1829 Dr. Arnold was appointed Headmaster of the old grammar school of Rugby, which he turned into what quickly became known as a public school. Recognising that many of the newly rich individuals had no wish for their sons to learn the hard way through apprenticeships, Arnold reinvented the classical curriculum, fusing it with a highly specific Christian purpose and – by insisting that this should become a boarding experience – created a set of schools specifically for the wealthier, officer class. As more of these old grammar schools became transformed into public schools so the number of grammar schools available to the ordinary people of England fell dramatically.

In 1902 so well provided for were the sons of the elite in the public schools, and so limited were the opportunities for the emerging middle classes to get an education that would fit them to be middle-ranking administrators, that government eventually moved to create the first state-provided grammar schools – not quite in the way that the Elizabethans had done, but as watered-down versions of the more recently created public schools. As such they took on the public school assumption that the teaching of Latin and Greek was more important than science or technology.

It was not until 1944 that a tripartite system of secondary schooling was established with grammar schools for the most able, technological grammar schools for middle ability and Modern schools for the majority. Which school a child would attend was decided upon by an exam taken at the age of eleven based on intelligence tests. Retrospective research now shows that 14% of pupils – 1 in 7 – were misplaced. There were many other faults, chief of which was the assumption that there was a single intelligence quotient that was generalisable, and which would act as an accurate predictor of future performance. From this the policy makers concluded in 1944 that youngsters with a predisposition towards science and technology would only be allocated to technical grammar schools, a lesser institution to the much wanted grammar school itself.

It took only twenty years for the majority of the people, and the politicians, to eject the concept of tripartite secondary education for its faults were all too clear. Those people who looked nostalgically back to the solution of the grammar school have to accept that, should this be reintroduced, three-quarters of the population would be told at the age of eleven that they were not good enough for such a form of schooling.

Grammar schools: Even the BBC is waking up to the painful, divisive reality

I suspect I am not the only person who felt beamed into some alien universe watching the first episode of Grammar Schools: Who Will Get In?, BBC Two’s mini-series focusing on the transfer to secondary school in the selective borough of Bexley.

Are there really parts of diverse, metropolitan London in 2018 in which primary-age children are put through the 11-plus test? Who could not be haunted by the silent tears of Jaenita’s mother, who works at Poundland and has spent hundreds of pounds a month for years on test tuition, only to see her plucky, articulate daughter fear herself “a failure in life”?

Parts two and three of the series will concentrate on the secondary school years, particularly the run-up to GCSEs, with Erith secondary modern struggling with a minority of disruptive students and severe teacher shortages in science, while Townley grammar has the pick of highly qualified staff.

It’s riveting drama. But what most strikes me is the subtle way that broadcasters have changed their approach to this divisive subject. A 2006 BBC documentary about Joe Prentis, a Birmingham boy going through the 11-plus nightmare, was much less critical about the process, happy to describe families “seeking refuge” in a grammar school at a time of “failing standards”.

In 2012, I was part of a group that made a complaint to the BBC about its documentary Grammar Schools: A Secret History, a rosily nostalgic view of postwar selection that saluted the grammar schools of old. We didn’t succeed with our complaint but we gave the BBC a run for its taxpayers’ money in terms of the politics of misrepresentation.

So why does this series feel a bit different in tone and content? It’s partly that television has extended its reach in the intervening years, with popular programmes such as Educating Essex and Educating Yorkshire, which have brought so many brilliant heads, teachers and young people into sympathetic view. There’s more than a hint of “Educating Bexley” about the new series. More generally, as a society, we’ve developed a keener understanding of the emotional component of learning – so there’s much less of the stiff BBC upper lip about 11-plus failure and more of a sense of the damaging effect of the test throughout secondary education – and not just on those who have failed.

But the shift is partly down to politics. Theresa May’s rash decision in 2016 to put selection back on the agenda has angered and worried parents and teachers and united the educational world against her plans. A string of academic studies have undermined the old myths of the grammar lobby, still repeated here by Townley grammar’s headteacher, who says his job is “talent spotting” and seems to believe that selection is not a problem for neighbouring schools, and that clever teenagers can only achieve if segregated from most of their peers.

Grammar Schools: Who Will Get In? reflects this shift in public, professional and political opinion through its use of indisputable facts, such as the low numbers of children on free school meals who get into grammars (Townley itself currently has only 3% of students on free school meals), and the crisis in teacher recruitment in non-selective schools. But it is also reflected in the film-makers’ decision to track the progress of equally clever, ambitious – and occasionally challenging – students in grammars and secondary moderns alike, while teachers in both work insanely hard to encourage their pupils to get through the punishing exam system.

In taking a broader, and powerfully human, view of the impact of selection, Grammar Schools: Who Will Get In? will surely put a further dent in government plans to expand grammar schools. Only in the final episode – when too much time is given over to the self justifications of Townley’s smooth-talking head – does it feel as if the programme makers lose their nerve. By then, I suspect, it is too late. Most viewers will already have made up their mind about this rotten system.

Watch the video: Τα πολλά - Πληθυντικός σε όμικρον γιώτα - Η κυρία Σιντορέ (January 2022).