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Grammar and secondary modern schools are a relic of education history

In Brent, our comprehensive schools draw in pupils from one of the most diverse boroughs in the country. Their achievements are not the result of selective recruitment, or segregating pupils based on attainment. Pupils from different backgrounds, ethnicities and abilities work and socialise together, supporting and encouraging one another.

And it is because of that diversity, twinned with the passion and enthusiasm of dedicated staff, which makes our schools such exciting and dynamic places of learning. The idea that we should dismantle this recipe for success goes against everything we stand for as a council.

Grammar and secondary modern schools are a relic of education history. Their driving purpose is to separate, at a randomly determined and early age, those who are able to demonstrate a very particular set of learning skills.

What makes this idea so dangerous is the underlying sentiment that we, as a society, should not strive for the best possible education for every child. We rightly rejected this concept a long time ago. We understood that life chances should not be determined by your ability to pass a test at the age of eleven. Opportunity should not be a privilege reserved for the elite, but the basic right of every child in this country.

The answer to improving education and indeed society is not separation, but unity. To bring together communities and children from every walk of life, supporting and encouraging them to achieve to the best of their abilities.

Central to everything we do in Brent is a simple principle: no one should be left behind. That applies to all aspects of our work – in housing, in welfare and certainly in education. Brent doesn’t want grammar schools and, looking at the fantastic examination results this summer, we don’t need them.

Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council

Written by Cllr Muhammed Butt


Stuart Saint wrote...
Dear Councillor I find the level of complacency in your message really concerning. Compared to international standards our education performance as a country is totally unsatisfactory. Fantastic results as you call them are all relative, against a low base.
October 11, 2016 05:30
Elisa Pettinelli wrote...
Dear Councillor, I am all for inclusiveness and for the right of every child to receive adequate education but the point is exactly that, what is adequate for one child may not be for another. For example, I see very few schools in Brent who offer Latin as a subject. Studying Latin is not a elitist, snobbish exercise, but a very useful tool to understand English grammar, how languages in general work, logic, and generally it is a tool to stretch the way you think about language and communication beyond its immediate uses. It's a way to engage less superficially with knowledge. Deeper non-superficial knowledge, I agree, is not necessary obtained by sitting an 11+ exam, a form of selection that is badly designed and robotic, fuelling the ridiculous market of tutors and 11+ schools. However, I can't help thinking that if there were more grammar-type schools, made accessible to everyone who is interested, perhaps we wouldn't even need the 11+ test anymore and parents wouldn't have to travel in their thousands to far-away grammar schools (High Barnet for example) dragging their poor children to sit a dodgy exam, in the desperate attempt to give them the only chance they'll ever have in life to access what they perceive is adequate education for their children. Or, if we are completely satisfied with Brent secondary schools provision, shouldn't we ask ourselves why well over a thousand children, probably closer to two thousands, with their parents get up at 6 on a rainy Saturday morning to go and sit an "art aptitude test" that will allow them to grab one of 24 places at a secondary school they'd have no hope enter otherwise? Looking at these children, their pathetically hopeful fathers and mothers (I'm one of them), their grandparents, screaming siblings, older siblings, nannies, and what not, I couldn't help feeling first sorry, and then a bit angry at politicians, journalists, thinkers, professors, educationists and all, who write and talk about education, and think they know what parents want and what children need, while all they'd have to do is come and join one of these queues, stand for just 10 minutes among year 6 parents to find out that all they badly need is more choices, better choices that really go beyond your postcode, your religion, the money you can spend. All that is needed is real variety of provision that would give our children the dignity of choosing what to study and where, without prejudices against any subject or kind of school, be that grammar or not.
October 11, 2016 02:23