RE THE ongoing grammar school debate. As an 11-plus failure may I comment?

Most resources were poured into these grammar schools at the expense of the secondary modern schools.

‘A’ stream pupils in secondary modern schools, according to later research, did better academically than 'B' grade pupils in grammar schools.

The 11-plus system was also open to abuse. Stories of teachers’ and headmasters’ offspring having failed the 11-plus, but miraculously ending up in a grammar school abounded at the time.

Secondary schools were the poor relations of the grammar schools. Less than 10 per cent of manual workers’ children won a grammar school place.

Those most likely to fail were working class children. A difference in material living standards was one reason.

Middle class children were more likely to have books, a warm and quiet room to do their homework – or indeed to have any homework – no financial concerns, etc.

Class bias in the 11-plus exam assisted middle class success. Critics pointed out that the 11-plus exam consistently used middle class cultural reference points.

Some social investigators believed the 11-plus was an insidious means of keeping most children at the bottom of the pile, rather than helping the talented to rise.

Far from overcoming social divisions, selective schooling exacerbated them, (as P Smith points out) by implying only a few deserved to get on in life.

Thus, the majority of children had a non-academic secondary education because government policy restricted academic success to only a few.

Grammar schools often imitated public schools, eg. grammar schools played rugby union, not soccer or rugby league. Nothing to do with fostering academic success; they simply promoted and perpetuated social elitism.

Far from being active agents of social mobility, grammar school teachers dissuaded many working class entrants from staying on into the sixth form, falsely assuming they weren’t fit for advanced study. Grammar schools remained resolutely middle class.

Politicians often look at the 1950s as if it was a golden age of social mobility.

In reality however, selective secondary education ensured there were very few golden tickets to go round and most of them went to the children of privileged parents. The success of the few relied on the failure of the many.

Successive governments ensured the education system was geared to meet factory fodder and routine clerical work.

Secondary schooling made many children acutely aware of just how unequal Britain is.

The reality is that we still live in a society rigged in favour of the middle class at every level.

JEFF ADAMS Bloomsbury Swindon