Today I have spent most of the morning talking to parents who are worried sick about which school to send their child to. The fear is the same, if they don’t get into grammar what is the best option?
In Kent we have a system which, not only polarises opinion but also, has tests which separate (in simple terms) those that are good at tests from those that are not so good. This leaves parents with a dilemma because many of them believe that if their child is not in a grammar school then they are not in a ‘good’ school. I will try and explain why this isn’t, necessarily, true.
Kent’s GCSE 5 A*-C rate is usually around 55-59%, which is just above the national average.
So let’s make it simple, let’s imagine there are 100 children in the current year 6
If you remove 28 of the students going to grammar (it is about 28% on average) this leaves 72 kids.
The 28 we have removed are the ones who passed the grammar test. Let’s also assume, then, that these are the kids good at tests. As a result they should do really well. In fact we should be able to say that at least 26 of them will get good grades at GCSE (I’ve said 26/28 because kids are kids are kids and anything can happen but if you look at grammars that is about right for a pass rate as it equates to 92%).
So 26 of the 55 who can/should pass are accounted for. This leaves 29 kids.
That is 29 out of 72 or 40.27%. Look at that figure again, to be better than average nationally a non-grammar school needs to get more than 40.3%
So what’s the issue? Well, the government says that schools must hit a minimum of 40%, a minimum!
So what happens? A school might have a kid who is ill on the day of their English exam and as a result they get a D and so they slip below 40%. If OfSTED come there is a real chance that they will say that such a low result is due to poor teaching. Poor teaching is a result of poor management and poor management (more often than not it seems in Kent) leads to the Head going and the school being placed in a category (either special measures or serious weaknesses).
I’ve made some massive generalisations here but the core of the argument remains the same. It is the kids sitting the tests, not the teachers, and some kids are not good at tests. That is life, it doesn’t make them bad people, in fact I know lots of amazing people who didn’t do brilliantly at school tests.
So what is my advice? Go to visit all your options, even that school in serious weaknesses or special measures. There are advantages to your child being in those schools too, such as a greater emphasis on lesson planning and tracking of achievement. Not to mention that the staff in those schools have stayed to make the place better and will be working their socks off to make it a success because (believe me) the shortage of teaches means that they do have options available.
Walk around the school with your child, get a feel for the place. Listen to what the Head says, are they sincere? Do you like their values, do the kids confirm that those values do pervade the school? Most of all ask how you child feels about the place. If they are happy going somewhere it is a great start and children, when given the chance, are very intuitive.
Good luck to you and your children, it is a stressful time but you will come through it.