Grammar School

We were recently asked: “Does the 2020 Association believe in ‘flip flop’ government and do you want to see selection and the Grammar School retained?”

In summary: “No: we do not believe in “flip flop” government, but we do believe in rectifying obvious mistakes. Yes: we do want to see the Grammar School retained.

We certainly do not believe in “flip flop” government as an arbitrary and self-indulgent exercise in reversing previous decisions on a whim and without good reason. However, we do believe that it ought to be possible to put right obvious mistakes, and get policy on the right track.

Guernsey, as a small island, needs a first class education system which will enable children of all levels of intelligence, and different abilities, to discover and make the most of their own particular talents. This, though, includes the most able of our children, as well as the less able. Every child should have the opportunity of an education which, through challenging them, will enable them to achieve their full potential.

For many years, Guernsey’s education system, with the combination of the Grammar School and other secondary schools, delivered just such a range of educational opportunity and it was admired for delivering this.  The Grammar School was a beacon of excellence in this context, and provided a route to success in later life for very many able children who might not otherwise have found it. The gratitude one so often hears amongst islanders for the opportunity which the Grammar School gave to them is a testament to this.

The decision to abolish the Grammar School was a mistake. It was a decision taken more in the interests of political correctness and a dogmatic mantra of supposed “equality”, than common sense as to the best system of education for both the benefit of the Island and of its young people.  

The mistake is illustrated just by observing what happened in the United Kingdom. The UK, similarly carried away on a tide of politically correct thinking, made the decision to abolish its grammar schools at the end of the 1960s. A gradual decline in excellence and educational standards followed. It has taken the UK fifty years to recognise and face up to the fact that abolishing selection was a mistake, however, much some might not wish to admit this, and the UK has just recently reversed that policy and is restoring grammar schools.

Guernsey, having had the advantage of avoiding this mistake, has now decided to throw this away, and to turn down the provenly misconceived rouge of abolishing its excellent Grammar School, at the same time as the UK is reversing that decision and trying to repair the damage it caused! This is the quality of inept decision-making which the present and recent States has descended into. The situation would be laughable if it were not so important, and therefore tragic.

It is quite apparent that a very great number of islanders (save possibly for a vocal handful who have a personal animosity to the system) were, and remain, in favour of retaining the Grammar School. They expressed these views, albeit hampered by the absence of a systematic way of making these felt. Their views, however, were simply brushed aside by the strident voices supposedly “expert” educationists, and those intent on enforcing political correctness regardless of the common sense of the situation. The result has been not only the abolition of a demonstrably excellent school structure, but complete chaos and indecision even about what ought to replace it.

Children need an education system tailored, as far as can be practically achieved, to their individualities. They they should not be consigned, in the interests of political dogma, to schools of a thousand or more pupils, where the headmaster does not even know the names of all the teachers, let alone his pupils. That is factory education, not excellent education.

It is not too late to do something. If something is wrong, you have to repair it.

You also have to try to ensure that a future States is populated by Deputies who make rational, common sense and businesslike decisions.

© 2018 – The 2020 Association