Angela Smith announced the new criteria for admission to second level eduction in the north today. The new criteria are based on geographical and family connections as well as random selection. Academic selection is to be abolished.
I cautiously welcome these proposals as thankfully it means an end to the dreaded transfer procedure. I remember the 11+ as a time of great stress and I don't think children should be put through such a thing at such a young stage of their development. However there is obviously an inherient danger in the new system that we will end up with "selection by postcode" for Grammar schools which is not a desirable state of affairs either.
Many supporters of the Grammar school sector will be appalled by these changes. Many point to the success of Grammar system as a reason to retain it but I feel these people are missing the point. I was educated in the Grammar system and yes, it was an excellent system which benefitted me greatly. I achieved very highly and will always be thankful to my school for that. But a grammar system leads to inequality. While those at the top of the chain get the best education in the best schools and achieve great things, those who are deemed failures at the age of ten or eleven get the short end of the stick, are cast into schools which are seen as inferior and often bright, intelligent and hardworking children who have the potential to achieve great things are dragged down and throttled by the system which deems that poor results of 2 hours of their lives as a ten year old means they are not suitable for the best the education system has to offer. The Grammar/ Secondary system is an apartheid system. The smart get smarter while those who didn't show enough potential at an early enough age are forgotten about.
I would prefer to see fully comprehensive post-primary system up to the age of 14 where Grammar schools are abolished and all P7 children who attend their local school untill the age of 14 to be given a proper chance to develop their own skills and talents. At 14, based on their performance over the past 3 years and their own possible career choices, there would be two educational options for students. The first being a vocational type insitution for the less academically minded where a small number of GCSEs would be taught but where the focus would be for students to gain experience in various different work situations such as plumbing, painting, joinery, administrative work or whatever is necessary. This experience would be gained at both a practical i.e. work experience and theoritical level.
The other option at 14 would be for students who wish to follow an academical path as far as A Levels or university to study a full compliment of GCSEs in the traditional manner.
Obviously this scheme is far from perfect and no doubt readers will be able to identify many flaws but to my mind it would be an improvement on the current system where many young people are forced to stay in school being disillusioned and bored untill the age of 16 where they are then shunted out into training centres or workplaces without any relevant experience