What are grammar schools and why are they controversial? – The Sun | The Sun

MODERN grammar schools have split opinion ever since their introduction.

Having existed since the 16th century, the schools only really began to make people question the system when the first modern grammar school was introduced as a result of the Education Act 1944.

Manchester Grammar School has been in Rusholme since 1931

What are grammar schools?

A grammar school is a type of state secondary school that admits its pupils based on ability, first created following the 1944 Education Act.

To receive a place at the school, students must first sit the 11-plus exam which comprises of a range of tests such as:

  • Verbal and non-verbal reasoning
  • Numerical reasoning
  • English comprehension, punctuation and grammar
  • Creative writing

There are currently 163 grammar schools in England and 66 in Northern Ireland, while there are none in Scotland or Wales.



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What is the difference between a grammar school and a normal school?

Originally, the term "grammar school" meant a school where you would study Latin grammar.

At the time, Latin was the language of instruction in Oxford and Cambridge.

Knowledge of Latin was thought to mark you out as a member of the educated elite.

Grammar schools are typically a private type of school, meaning, they are not run or managed by the government.

Normal state schools are run and governed by the local or national government.

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Predominantly they are called "public schools"  and there is no financial obligation to students who enrol to this type of school.

As they are not privately funded like grammar schools, funding tends to come from government taxes.

What are the advantages of going to a grammar school?

As the majority of the students within these schools tend to be high achievers, pupils are surrounded by like-minded students.

This tends to lead to better GCSE and A-Level results, while the individual is less likely to be bullied for working hard to excel in school.

The quality of teaching can also be higher in a grammar school as they tend to include all of the subjects whereas normal schools tend to have a strong focus on English, maths and science grades.

Most grammar schools have fantastic networking with universities while offering students far better facilities and academic environment.

Students with a gift for music or sport will particularly prosper in such an environment.

In addition to this, it is an opportunity to build a network of influential friends.

A study conducted by a group of universities concluded that pupils from grammar schools end up earning more than those who attended a normal comprehensive school.

Why are they so controversial?

One of the main reasons these schools were deemed so controversial is the effect failing such a test at the age of eleven could impact on individuals and their futures.

Failure of the 11 plus test would result in the pupil only having the option of a normal comprehensive school for their further education.

While offering a rounded level of education, it was felt that the chance to excel was being taken away from children at a very young age.

Many experts claim the questions in the 11 plus test are based on content not covered in most primary schools, which leaves many children at a disadvantage.

The Labour Party in particular feel that these schools create a class inequality because those that can afford to pay for their child to receive 11 plus coaching or send them to schools that prepare the pupils for the exam have an unfair advantage.

Lots of people also believe not having a grammar school education leaves students at a disadvantage in the future when they apply for university degrees and jobs.

For a number of people, it is not the reintroduction of grammar schools but the possible return to the inequality between them and other schools that is the problem.

A study found despite grammar schools topping the league tables they were no better than non-selective state schools, once higher ability and wealth were taken into consideration.

Durham University found the success of these schools was down to the more advantaged and brighter pupils which were enrolled.


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