Some of the present grammar schools are really ancient. They have a system of `houses’, `prefects’, `school loyalty’ and `team spirit’. It can be argued that this structure can, to a degree, explain how grammar school children can compete with the best of the public schools.
Sir Robert Morant, who was a product of one of the best public schools, worked on the 1902 Education Act. This act was to develop the idea of Local Education Authorities and provide funds for non religious education. The act also made more provisions for some money to be set aside for Adult education. Grammar school education was largely secure.
When a child entered one of the early grammar school the emphasis was often put on trying to level out the different accents of the children. It was felt, in some quarters, that the way an Englishman talks and moves would affect his social mobility. Speech alone was a significant social ticket.
When we listen to presenters on regional and national television – and to Members of Parliament – then we must be thankful that there have been changes in attitude towards accents and local idiosyncrasies.
For many years sport has been used to play a part in developing character. Sport is still highly prized as a worthwhile formative influence. We worked with a family some time ago where sport was a vital element in the choice of schools. A boy with a wonderfully positive character passed the entrance test to two schools. The boy was a very good swimmer. He had the marks to go to the one very successful and highly academic grammar school – which had a good history of sporting achievement. He chose to go to the lesser grammar school in order to make more time available for his competitive swimming. He was a national age group competitor and needed hours in the pool. The boy and his parents recognised that there was simply not enough time in the day for work, sport and play.
The Head Teacher of the primary school where the swimmer attended wrote (we were told) to the Head of the grammar school explaining the training schedule and the commitment that was entailed.
Entrance to grammar school used to be made up of intelligence tests, attainment tests, critical compositions and reference to the child’s school record. This has been replaced, in some authorities, by single subject ability tests.