National Grammar Schools Association
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April 2007

NGSA News - Newsletter of the National Grammar Schools Association

New pamphlet calls for more grammar schools

A new pamphlet, Three Cheers for Selection: how grammar schools help the poor, published by the Centre for Policy Studies, calls for more selection within existing state schools and more grammar schools in areas of the country where they don't currently exist. The author, (Lord) Norman Blackwell, who was head of the Prime Minister's Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street from 1995 to 1997, accuses politicians of tolerating an education system that is both academically inferior and socially divisive.

The comprehensive system, Norman Blackwell writes, has not improved educational standards, nor has it increased social mobility. In 2002, for example, 32% of pupils in LEAs 'deemed wholly selective' achieved A*-B grade GCSEs, but only 23% in LEAs deemed 'wholly comprehensive'. The author proposes that all parents, wherever they live, should be given the choice of applying to a free, selective academic school and that all parents should be given information on selective schools while their children are in primary schools. The less well-off should be given free home-to-school transport to attend a selective school, if required. A voluntary 11-plus exam for places in grammar schools (which in now normal practice in areas where they currently exist) means there would be no need to go back to the old system of a compulsory 11-plus.

An ICM survey for the Centre for Policy Studies found that 76% of those questioned believe that more academic children maximise their potential through streaming or by attending selective schools and 73% believe this applies to less academic children too. These results are very similar to those from an ICM poll done for the NGSA last year, which found that 70% of those questioned would like to see new grammar schools in areas of the country where they don't currently exist.

Three Cheers for Selection costs £7.00 including postage from the Centre for Policy Studies, 57 Tufton Street, London SW1P 3QL. Or order it online at

Prince Charles supports Northern Ireland's grammar schools

The Belfast Telegraph (16 February 2007) has reported that The Prince of Wales has expressed his horror at moves by politicians to axe the 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland. Speaking to the principal of Limavady Grammar School at a Clarence House reception, Prince Charles is reported to have mentioned his concern about plans to overhaul Northern Ireland's secondary education system, which would spell the end of grammar schools across the province.

Reacting to the comments, Dr Sam McGuinness said he was pleased Prince Charles has taken an interest in the issue. 'He expressed great disquiet about the impending disappearance of the grammar schools in Northern Ireland,' he explained. 'He couldn't understand why anyone would want to dismantle something that works.'

Last year, politicians in Westminster passed a Parliamentary Order (Regulation) to end academic selection for Northern Ireland's grammar schools. But ministers later said the Order need not take effect if the Northern Ireland Assembly was re-instated. Now, the Assembly is due to re-start, but local politicians have appointed Sinn Fein's Catriona Ruane as education minister designate. This does not auger well for the grammar schools.

New study shows grammar schools help the poor

A new study led by Professor Paul Gregg of Bristol University shows that bright pupils from poor homes who go to grammar schools achieve significantly better exam results than those who go to comprehensives. The benefits are equivalent to the average pupil turning 8 B grade GCSEs into 8 A grades.

The researchers analysed pupils' test results at age 11 and their GCSE results 5 years later in 19 local education authorities which have retained the 11-plus, and compared them with results in similar areas with no grammar schools. They found 'there were significant benefits to the elite 25% who attend grammar schools and a small degree of detriment to the other 75%.' All the brightest children who attended grammar schools, not just those from poorer homes, produced better results than those at comprehensives – boosting their results, on average, by four grades (Daily Mail, 10 April 2007).

Serious threat to Lincolnshire grammar schools?

Plans are well advanced to merge or 'federate' two Lincolnshire grammar schools, Boston Grammar School (BGS) for boys and Boston High School (BHS) for girls.

Conservative controlled Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) has sub-contracted its School Improvement Service (SIS) to CfBT Education Trust, which seems determined not to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of the grammar schools. The SIS has used inequitable data to make the performance of the grammar schools seem mediocre in comparison with other types of school. The SIS has also used questionable projections indicating falling school rolls to convince LCC's cabinet member for education, Cllr Christine Talbot, that the only way forward is to merge the two single-sex grammars. Last summer, it was intended to reduce the grammar school places available in Boston from around 264 to 120-150 each year, but parents have been told this no longer applies. No new admission numbers have been published, however. What was originally planned as a 'merger' has now become a 'federation' with a single governing body from this September and joint admissions from 2008. It is also intended to have a single headteacher and to have both schools operating from a single site.

Internal emails and documents obtained by parents under the Freedom of Information Act show that the head of the SIS, Andy Breckon, along with the head of BGS, John Neal, his chairman of governors, Peter Jordan, the head of BHS, Helen McEvoy and her chairman of governors, Andrew Wallis, have been planning these changes for some time, without informing all their governors. The full governing bodies were told nothing until simultaneous governors' meetings were held at both schools on 6 July last year. At this stage, it is impossible to say why all the governors agreed to the proposals which, in effect, will mean the loss of a grammar school without any need to meet the statutory requirement of a parental ballot. The danger, of course, is that if it is successful, a similar 'process' could be used to undermine other high-performing schools. If the Boston plans are well-founded and worthy of support, why the need for such secrecy?

Lincolnshire's 15 grammar schools have around 95% of their pupils achieving 5 or more grade A*-C GCSEs including English and maths (the new basic measure of secondary school performance). They also have excellent A-level results and staying-on rates. Other (non-selective) Lincolnshire secondary schools are performing nowhere near this level, so this 'levelling-down' is difficult to understand. The good news is that a new parents' group, Save Our Schools-BGS-BHS, is fighting the plans. Led by Debbie Evans and Phillip Bosworth, Save Our Schools is supported by the National Grammar Schools Association. Further information is available from The Sunday Telegraph (17 December 2006), the Sunday Express (31 December 2006) or at Or contact the NGSA.

Kent grammars may be threatened too?

It is reported that the objective 11-plus test for entry to grammar schools in Kent may be replaced by teacher assessment, teacher recommendation, or even the results achieved by pupils in national curriculum 'key stage' tests. Kent County Council's education director of operations, Dr Ian Craig, thinks the government's new statutory Admissions Code of Practice is justification for a working group consisting of headteachers and local authority officials to reconsider such possibilities, though they were rejected only two years ago. Any moves in this direction would, of course, remove control over admission standards away from the grammar schools and into the hands of politicians.

This, too, is disturbing, especially when Susan Rowell, head of the Weald of Kent Grammar School for Girls in Tonbridge, told The Sunday Telegraph (4 February 2007) that an overhaul of the system is 'long overdue'. Under the current regime, an overhaul is unlikely to benefit grammar schools, but if you have any further information on these plans, please let the NGSA know.

NGSA Annual Conference and AGM

The NGSA's Annual Conference and AGM was held on 24 February at the picturesque Stratford-upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls.

The proceedings were opened by local Conservative MP, John Maples, who expressed full support for grammar schools against the threats they currently face. Unfortunately, the second speaker, Linda Doyle, the Head of Joint Initiatives at the Specialist School and Academies Trust, who was booked to promote trust status, failed to turn up.

The threats to grammar schools inherent in current government policies, which are reinforced by the Education and Inspections Act 2006, were explained by Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education. Then Phillip Bosworth, co-chairman of Save Our Schools-BGS-BHS in Lincolnshire, (above), explained the difficulties parents face against those who wish to undermine or remove grammar schools, including hostile local Conservatives.

Finally, Derek Clark MEP, who is a former teacher and now education spokesman for UKIP, stressed that his party was the only one that now has a policy of opening more grammar schools. A very informative discussion on topics of particular interest to grammar schools then took place, followed by the AGM and an excellent lunch.

British Chambers of Commerce director-general also calls for more grammar schools

David Frost, the director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce has also called for more grammar schools. And for more technical schools that teach information technology, specialist engineering and science. Speaking at the BCC's annual conference in London on 16 March, Mr Frost said: 'Every survey we do highlights the failures of the education system. The fact that half our young people are leaving school with five decent GCSEs is nothing short of a national disgrace.' (Daily Telegraph, Business News, 16 April 2007)

  • Mrs Tina Marden has opened a petition on the Prime Minister's Number 10 website calling for the creation of more grammar schools to give more bright children a chance to achieve their potential. Please sign up as soon as possible and encourage others to do so too:
  • Mr Franz Hocheder, who teaches English and Geography at the Willibald-Gymnasium in Eichstätt, Bavaria is seeking a grammar school in England with which to make links. The Willibald-Gymnasium is a small school of around 700 male and female students aged 10 to 19. They specialize in either languages (Latin; English; French) or natural sciences (Maths; Physics; Chemistry), plus other subjects, of course. It is a modern school with a long tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages.

The town of Eichstätt is situated on the Altmühl river, a tributary of the Danube. It is home to a university, several schools, a number of offices run by the government and a variety of churches including a cathedral. Although the area around the town is used intensively for agriculture, most people living in the villages work either in Eichstätt or in nearby Ingolstadt, where the Audi motor company is the largest employer.

The cities of Munich, Nuremberg, Augsburg and Regensburg are all within easy reach. The Altmühl Valley Nature Reserve which comprises most of the county attracts visitors from all over Germany with cycling and canoeing as the most popular sports. People interested in natural sciences know the area for its fossils because it was here that Archaeopteryx, the extinct species which forms a link between reptiles and birds has been found. Some of the quarries are open to the public and fossil-hunting is allowed there.

Any grammar school that may be interested is invited to contact Mr Hocheder directly at

  • The Hebel Gymnasium is a coeducational grammar school in Pforzheim, a town of 110,000 people on the northern edge of the Black Forest in SW Germany. There are currently 1,100 students all of whom start English in their first year at the age of 10. The Headmaster, Dr Thomas Paeffgen is very keen to open a partnership with a British school. Any exchanges, on a home and away basis, would mostly be of groups for 4-5 days, but could also be between individuals and placements for a full school year are also possible. If you are interested, please contact Dr Paeffgen at: Hebel-Gymnasium, Simmlerstr. 1, 75172 Pforzheim, Germany. Tel: +49 7231 39 2359.
  • Mrs Claudia Jiménez is an English teacher at a secondary school in Barcelona, which is also looking for a secondary school in the UK with Spanish language in its curriculum for further projects and perhaps an exchange.

IES Angeleta Ferrer i Sensat is situated in a residential area on the outskirts of Barcelona with approximately 600 students aged from 12 to 18. Along with Spanish, students learn English, French and Catalan, as the school is in the Catalan region of Spain. The website (in Catalan) shows views of the school and some activities: Any interested school should please email Mrs Jiménez at