When it came to my selection for my secondary education, it was a complex decision;
I could stay in Leeds, and go to either of the local community colleges (both of which became academies shortly after I began my tenure at one of them).
Or I could stay with my grandparents in York and go to Joseph Rowntree Comprehensive, an... alright school, and one where I had many friends from when I lived in York as a little girl.
Another option was to apply for the bursary for the public schools in the area, Queen Ethelberga's and Queen Mary's; suffice to say, whilst I dreamt, I did not achieve, and thus ended up attending the community college/academy/identity crisis school.
And I have to say, it was the worst five years of my life. In spite of being in the top sets for the academic subjects, I was still very much limited by the attitudes of other pupils who may have had the ability but sadly lacked in the behavior one would associate with such academia.
As my GCSEs rolled around and the time came to apply for post-sixteen education, I decided to apply to a college rather than remain in the school I had been attending. The A level courses on offer had been totally cut back at my school as a result of people not applying to study them; languages only just scraped through. Performing arts and art were totally cut. Home Economics, too. P.E. barely managed to cling on. I think they had to combine English Language and Literature; everyone in my year just seemed to be more scientifically minded and I believe a great many of my classmates have gone on to study a science.
But yes, I applied to a college, a Catholic college, and it was the best two years of my life. Our campus was in amongst the Leeds universities (don't forget the city has three) and I was surrounded by positivity and support. It's one decision I do not regret. But again, I was in a muddle when it came to applying for my A level studies as to where to go.
I could go to the school's sixth form (not bloody likely.)
York College was an option; there was a bus early on a morning, the train, or I could live with my grandparents during the week. Unfortunately, because we fell just inside a distance-calculated bursary zone (how daft) I wasn't eligible for the travel bursary, which knocked that idea on the head.
Leeds City College didn't appeal on any level, and I'll admit to snobbery on my own part here. Having already attended a Comprehensive-turned-''academy'', I didn't want to be in yet another concrete building surrounded by people who didn't share my passions, and thus I ended up at the red-brick Victorian Catholic college in the heart of the city. But, it was a decision which set me up for life.
Outstanding Oftsted time after time, a high number of Oxbridge students, and 88% average A*-C A level results? How could you not apply?
After moving down south for university, it's really hit home just how much ''easier'' education is back up north; when I was living in Hastings I had two housemates from around Northampton/Bedford way, and they both attended the triple school (primary, middle, senior) system, which also had a grammar school flow- I couldn't comprehend it. We just had primary, secondary, and it was decided in the first year or so if you were 'thick' (lowest sets), 'capable' (Middle) or 'Gifted and Talented' (snotty, over-pushed and entitled).
In Ashford, we have two grammar schools, two further secondary schools and a college, with some courses also offered in correlation with Folkestone college. But I've been on the slow train to London many a time seeing entire carriages packed out with grammar school students studying in Tonbridge. Even Hastings has Buckswood, a 4-18 public school, which offers a bus service daily.
I honestly cannot get my head around it.
It's a very divisive subject. On the one hand, I've nothing against so-called segregation in order to benefit students among their own abilities; on the other, I've been told by teachers that mixed-ability classes are designed to have pupils learn from one another and be supported by each other. I don't know about that...
Grammar schools- the most obvious symbol of classism in Britain?