Grammar schools are a well-known part of the UK education system. The grammar school dates back to the 16th century, but has evolved over the years. In the present day, grammar schools are educational institutions that accept students on academic ability through an exam – the 11-plus.
A brief history of the grammar school
The grammar school has a rich tradition in the UK, but as the social climate changed, so did the grammar school. In the mid-twentieth century, the grammar school was seen to reinforce the class and education divide in the country. Education was organised into two main threads: a focus on academic and trade education. Grammar schools started to be slowly phased out in favour of the comprehensive schooling system.
What makes a grammar school different?
In areas where traditional grammar schools still exist, children are required to undertake the 11-plus exam to gain entry. The test is a means to distinguish those with higher academic abilities and the potential for higher education. The 11-plus exam is seen as a right of passage for children in grammar school areas. The entry exam tests pupils on maths, verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, spelling, and English. The exam is to test competency, rather than the ability to memorise specific facts and knowledge.
The case for grammar schools
Those who have attended grammar schools argue that there is a sense of pride. A sense of confidence is a vital trait for young people to have in order to succeed. Where students have academic talents, a grammar school environment could ensure they thrive. Grammar schools also have a focus on smaller class sizes, ensuring that pupils get the help and attention they need.
Do grammar schools actually benefit the students?
On the other side of the fence, there are those who argue that the grammar school system is unfair. It could be said that grammar school instills a sense of elitism. Due to the perception that attending a grammar school affords better opportunities in life, the pressure for young children to attend is immense. Those sitting on the admission panels have received training to spot ‘over-tutoring’ in order to assess whether children have the long-term ability to thrive in a grammar school environment.
Does the grammar school still have a place in modern education?
As the world focuses on breaking down stereotypes and offering everyone equal opportunities, the concept of the grammar school is a conflicting one. Selective education, like with any process that remains competitive, can create pride and resentment for either side.
In reality, grammar schools offer a quality education and open up opportunities for many students. With a push from Theresa May to fund the opening of more grammar schools in the UK, there will be a rise in new grammar and free schools in the UK. The face of education is set to change, and supporting sectors need to keep up.