National Grammar Schools Association
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March 2010

Newsletter of the National Grammar Schools Association

Many thanks to all our supporters

Our advertisement in The Daily Telegraph (20 February 2010) was a great success and many thanks to everyone who pledged their support. Special thanks, too, to those who sent donations to help fund the NGSA's Campaign for Choice.

Because none of the leaders of the 3 largest political parties now supports grammar schools, only 'people power' can save these fine state schools from gradual erosion and possible closure. If you haven't yet signed up at, please do so as soon as possible. The links are on the bottom right of the homepage.  

Support for grammar schools is high and growing

An overwhelming majority of the public support the autonomy and continued existence of England's 164 grammar schools and the 68 in Northern Ireland. 

An opinion poll carried out by ICM for the NGSA found 70% of those questioned support the retention of the 232 grammar schools in England and Northern Ireland as self-governing state schools and additional, voluntary choice for parents. Only 19% oppose the idea and 10% don't know.

Asked if they would support the introduction of some new state grammar schools, especially in urban areas where there currently are none, 76% supported the idea, 17% opposed it and 6% didn't know. Support for grammars is strong across all age and income groups with a remarkable 85% of 18 to 24 year-olds (many of whom will be first-time voters) wanting more grammar schools. 

St Bernard's Catholic Grammar School still threatened

Pressure to 'federate'  St Bernard's Catholic Grammar School in Slough with an under-performing  secondary modern school to create a comprehensive academy continues,  although St Bernard's governors voted 17 to 1 against the proposal.

Internal emails obtained by worried parents under the Freedom of Information Act show that those in favour of  destroying  St Bernard's (ministers, the Department for Children, Schools and Families,  the local  authority and the Catholic education service) are ignoring the wishes of the governors and wasting time, effort and taxpayers' money in pursuit of their  aims. The situation is made worse because, while St Bernard's is threatened with closure and knowing pupils may face years of disruption, parents are deterred from seeking places for their children there.   

Fortunately, Faith and Choice Together, the local parents' group, is firmly defending the autonomy of their school – see their website and blog at 

400-year-old Boston Grammar School also under threat  

Based on misleading information from Conservative-controlled Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) and CfBT, the educational charity sub-contracted to run local schools, Boston Grammar School for boys and Boston High School for girls were federated in 2007. The plan was, and still is, to turn the two schools into a single co-educational institution with the annual intake reduced from a possible 232 boys and girls down to120. The federation, it was decreed, would operate with a single headteacher and a single governing body.  The educational and human consequences have been disastrous.

The percentage of boys achieving 5 or more GCSEs including English and maths fell from 99% in 2008 down to 83% in 2009 – a 16% drop in a single year.  In September 2009, only 66 boys were admitted to the federation out of a possible 112.  And they were allocated to the girls' school.

This  was probably illegal, as the formalities required to change Boston High School from single sex to co-educational admissions were not properly carried out. Also, as each of these 66 boys carries around £4,000 a year in funding, it left the boys' grammar school short of pupils, financially unviable and ripe for closure.

Some of the girls' school staff then tried to 'defederate' the two schools to add to the boys' school's problems. Fortunately, the governors voted against 'defederating' before the staff's interference, but another attempt to 'defederate' is imminent. Now, ministers have allocated £70m to LCC, some of which the local authority will almost certainly use to close Boston Grammar School forever. 

Kent grammars threatened too

As one of the largest local authorities in England, Conservative-controlled Kent County Council also has the most grammar schools. Nevertheless, as in Boston, a federation between Chatham House Grammar School for boys and Clarendon House Grammar School for girls also saw the executive headship of the two schools taken by the head of the girls' school. Here, the number of girls admitted to the federated schools was reduced from a possible 120 down to 68.  

At nearby Marlowe Academy, meanwhile, which is newly built and cost taxpayers many millions of pounds, the percentage of pupils achieving 5 or more GCSEs including English and maths  is only 12%.  The national average is around 50% and grammar schools usually average 95% to 100%. 

Strange events at Marling School

More than a year ago, Neil Carmichael, who was then chairman of governors at Marling (Grammar) School in Stroud, took common cause with the NUT to remove Roger Lock, the widely respected headteacher who had been on the staff for almost 30 years. Exact reasons for his dismissal remain unclear and he is appealing against the decision. Meanwhile, Mr Carmichael has resigned from the governing body to fight the election as a Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, said to have the ear of shadow education secretary Michael Gove.     

Northern Ireland

Attempts by Catriona Ruane, Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein/IRA education minister; to outlaw academic selection were thrown into confusion a few months ago when the province's 68 grammar schools independently set and marked their own 11-plus tests.  Although the Protestant and secular grammar schools charged families £35 for each entry (tests for the Catholic grammar schools were funded by an anonymous donor), the total number of voluntary entries was just under 14,000,  almost as many as when the tests were free and centrally administered.  

Taken as a whole, Northern Ireland's youngsters consistently produce better exam results than their  counterparts in the rest of the UK.  More youngsters from underprivileged backgrounds get places in the top universities than in England. But as elsewhere, this constant political sniping at the grammar schools prevents them from operating as they should. More information on the rampant political skulduggery in Northern Ireland is available at

Food for thought?

The root cause of this war against grammar schools is, of course, political. Politicians and their officials are behind it – it does not have parental support.  So if they want our votes, isn't it time politicians stopped spinning and started to do some good, not least for bright, under-privileged youngsters for whom private education is not an option?