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AS Unit 2 - Education

1) Education in Britain untill 1988

The 1944 Education Act set up 3 types of secondary schools, this division is known as the Tripartite system. The 3 types were:

  1. Grammar – For more “intelligent” students who passed the 11+ test
  2. Technical – To teach skills useful in labour, for those who failed the 11+ test.
  3. Modern – For all students who failed the 11+ test and don’t attend Technical schools.Co

1970’s Comprehensive Schools abolished the 3 tier school system. With the exception of Grammar schools, children now all went to similar “Comprehensive” schools, with no selection by examination. by 2007 there were only 233 state Grammar schools remaining.

What is a “true comprehensive”?

“True” comprehensives don’t have any selection procedure. This means they dont have any restrictions on who can attend the school, it also means they have completely mixed ability classes.

Whilst many comprehensives started as true, more and more are become more selective, with tougher entry criteria and more usage of setting and streaming.

The case against selection (advantages of comprehensive education)

  • Opportunities remain open – A childs achievement is not limited by their success in the 11+ test. The ability to gain good qualifications and have success in school remains possible through a child’s schoolife; you are not as restricted by not getting into a Grammar school.
  • “Late Bloomers” – Some students may not begin to show their true potential untill after the 11+ test. However comprehensive education means students are not restricted by attainment when they were younger.
  • More students get a better education –  Fewer students leave secondary school without any qualifications
  • Less “social division” –  Children are given an environment where they can mix with people from a variety of social classes, as opposed to the tripartite system where upper classes would attend Grammar schools and the poorer children would attend Technical or Modern. This leads to less of a divide of social classes and increased social mobility
  • Less Chance of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy – Children are less likely to be “labelled” as failures and therefore are less at risk of self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Help for the less able students – Mixed ability means that the more intelligent students can stimulate and help less able students. Also, research has shown that mixed ability classes have no negative effect on “high-flyers”
  • More opportunity – Comprehensive schools are normally quite large, this means that the school can teach a wider range of subjects and provide a more diverse education. For example the larger comprehensive schools can have more equipment and facilities.

The case of Selection (Criticisms of comprehensive schools)

  • Grammar schools taking all the brightest students – When Grammar schools are near comprehensives they take (“Cream off”) all the brightest students. This means they aren’t true comprehensives at all because they lack the more able students, therefore it is similar to the old tripartite system.
  • Negative effect on “High Flyers” –  Mixed ability learning means brighter students are slowed down by less able class mates
  • Issues with large school sizes – The large size of most comprehensives means it is difficult for teachers to understand and know all their students well. This can lead to discipline problems, and an inability to notice some pupils talents.

About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology


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