Selection, selection, selection

Whilst I have been the first to say that exam results aren’t everything the current debate raging in England and Wales following the Prime Minister’s most recent proclamation on grammar schools gives pause for thought.   In a classic piece of English compromise academically selective grammar schools were abolished in the 1960s and 1970s, apart from in the places they weren’t (163 grammar schools remain)!  A brave new era of comprehensive education followed.  Earlier this month the British Prime Minister announced that new grammar schools were to be actively considered.

If you like grammars they are engines of social mobility which give suitable life chances to those who merit academic exclusivity.  If you are against them they are discriminatory and condemn young people to a life of fewer opportunities based on nothing more substantial than a good day in the exam hall.

At the BSP we are not academically selective.  We welcome one and all whatever their academic prowess to make the best of what they have, to be the best that they can be.  Each year we are as pleased to acknowledge the achievement of the students who struggled to pass but did achieve that goal, as of those who cruise seemingly effortlessly through assessments.  We are delighted for any Year 13 student who gains a place at their first choice of university.  We have a fair share going to Oxford and Cambridge, but our ambition is not bound to particular institutions for their reputation alone; we want the best place for the individual student and generally we can help this to happen.  Simply stated, academic selection is not the key to school success.  Academic success comes from having access to good teaching, supportive friends and interested parents.  Differentiated teaching, a range of subject choices and high expectations play their part too. An academic hothouse has both a glass ceiling and glass walls.  I prefer to see minds grow in a place without the constrictions of such boundaries.

Education is about more than simply grades on a certificate.  It is about the lessons that are taught both in and out of the classroom.  A fine set of exam grades will never hinder but it is also vital that other skills are developed alongside the markers of academic success.  I am par-
ticularly interested in the mindset that pupils develop while they are here.  Are they positive? Do they leave us willing to discover all that the world holds for them? Do they consider those around them?  Are they capable of independent thought?  I think our young people do leave here with these characteristics and that is surely more important that a league table position or school A* pass rate bragging rights.

When I’m asked about our approach to selection I’m happy to be clear:
We are proudly non-selective and unashamedly academically successful.  Perhaps Mrs May should come and visit…

Nicholas Hammond


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