Letter to Editor: Is it time for a Grammar School in Harlow?

Education: Secondary / Sun 10th Oct 2021 at 10:32am

Dear Editor,

LOOKING at the 2021 ‘A’ results table for Essex schools and academies published on the BBC website, it is interesting to note that the top performing schools in the county are selective entry grammar schools such as Colchester Royal Grammar, Colchester High School for Girls and King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford.

Only two Harlow institutions made the top 50 with Harlow College at 22 and St Marks at 37.

The Consortium of Selective Schools in Essex (CSSE) has 10 schools as members. Unfortunately, these are concentrated in and around Southend, Colchester, Chelmsford and Brentwood and the policy is only to consider prospective pupils no further than 12.5 miles from a member school. Therefore, Harlow residents do not have the option for their children to attend one of these coveted schools. 

With the future Harlow & Gilston Garden Town and the developments such as the Science Park, etc., Harlow will be seeking to attract more and more skilled and qualified people and business investment.

What better way to facilitate this and to improve opportunities for local people than to broaden the educational offer?

I have family in Chelmsford and one of the main reasons they moved there was because of the Grammar schools, which their children attended.

This is the case in other parts of the county too. Good schools attract people.

If Harlow really wishes to aspire to excellence, surely it is time we had a selective entry Grammar school with first rate teaching and facilities as an option for our young people. 

Jean Morgon

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5 Comments for Letter to Editor: Is it time for a Grammar School in Harlow?:

2021-10-10 10:58:33

No I don't think there is a need for a grammar school, it's time to bring back 6th forms to all Harlow schools. They were took away in the 80's and schools and students have suffered ever since. We have some really good schools but with such a limited choice for Harlows young people, they have no option but to go to Hertfordshire to study A levels. We are really selling our town and young people short.

2021-10-10 11:46:09

You mean Grammar schools that when they were "thriving " in the 1960s had average pass rates of 2 to 3 GCEs!! Had a limited classics based curriculum? There were a few things the concept of such schools proved: 1. If you select a bunch of bright kids then teach them how to pass exams some of them pass lots of exams 2. If you want to reduce social mobility and secure a child's career on the basis of who they and their families know rather than what they know then such schools tend to work. The consequences trickle down a pervert the cause of education and we as a country don't educate our children nor develop their full range of talents and governments still think that education is about passing examinations which themselves are flawed. Answers might lay in devising a curriculum that is relevant, recognizes and ensures the potential of every child and that there are many kinds of intelligence not simply on kind that gives us exams that only assess what's administratively easy and cheap to assess. The uk lost it's way in the late 1970s and educationally we have lost 40 to 50 years. OFSTED has said about two thirds of schools are not good enough. This points to the fact that we may be on the wrong track and or that OFSTED, set up to raise standards, itself has failed. If Britain is to survive then given that past educational provision and systems have produced a low skilled workforce and has failed to produce the 4000 000 million Engineers, Scientists the IET say are needed then schools and curriculum do need to be re thought out. Grammar Schools are not the answer, like dinosaurs they died out over most of the country. Time the rest were buried. However not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, I suggest that if anyone is interested in building a new future, a renaissance in education then they might go back and study what the Newsom and Robin's Reports had to say. The surveyed the scene in around late 1950s: Robin's 1963, and sadly not much has changed since, because many of their recommendations weren't taken up.

Kay Morrison
2021-10-11 07:03:08

Sound observations, Ed. Outstanding teaching/learning is the aim of all our schools. We know how to do it. It necessitates skilled, inspired teaching staff, a positive ethos, enlightened leadership. We know how to motivate young people. Resources help, of course, including qualified staff, support, technology. I find it hard to take the suggestion that we should go back to grammar schools seriously. Let's give our schools respect. Let's give them the tools they need. Let's get real.

Philip Cowan
2021-10-11 09:25:11

Ah yes, Harlow College, that beacon of education. When I taught there, they were throwing kids off A levels months before their exams to ensure 'more' passed - ie anyone who might fail was denied the chance of even sitting their A levels, in the hope that everyone who actually got to sit them got a good mark. If that had been done at a grammar school, the parents would have been up in arms, but it seems you can abuse the kids of the working class all you like. Admittedly, this was all a decade ago, and I am sure the current management would never dream of such underhand tactics, but I am rather suspicious that, in a year where teachers graded their own pupils and overall results were unusually high, Harlow College has come out so well. Perhaps I am just a cynic, traumatised by my own experiences at an earlier, less enlightened Harlow College, or maybe - and this is the lesson for the whole of education - all assessment for all subjects at all levels should be done externally. FE, grammar school, high school, free school or whatever, you would have a proper measure of achievement.

Pauline S
2021-10-11 10:49:50

My Father was at school during WW2 and he considers he had a very good education at an ordinary state school in Loughton (The Brook, as it was then known). Compare that with schools in Harlow where even the basics do not appear to have been taught fully for decades - although I admit things have now improved - on the face of it. However, we need to get back to 'outside' assessments to know the fairest outcome for the future. Appart from Maths and English what about some more practical subjects?

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