Gazette Article 4: How well are young people served by “parental demand”?

GazettePeoplePublished in the Brentwood Gazette – 2nd Janury 2013

Brentwood’s parents may be interested to note that Chelmsford County High School has changed their admissions policy. The grammar school have decided that they will no longer admit students on the basis of the Eleven Plus but will instead select via a new test.

Their website explains that, “for some years we have been concerned that many parents have associated entry to this school with the need to invest in intensive coaching for their daughter.” The replacement test is intended to be a better measure of high academic ability rather than a reflection of tutoring specific to the current exam.

The Gazette has featured this process in the past and it’s always struck me that it risks young people ending up in an environment that may not actually suit them. If tutoring to pass the exam has disguised actual academic ability, what is the point of spending time and money to send a pupil to a school in which they will then struggle?

I was also recently made aware of a new primary “free school” in Bristol that has been approved to open in September next year. They intend to focus heavily on numeracy and literacy during traditional school hours, only covering PE and creative subjects on Saturday mornings.

Children will keep these hours as soon as they join the school in Reception.

I cannot believe anyone would want their four year old to do a six day week but this seems to me to be a reflection of the direction of current education policy which is supposedly reflecting “parental demand”.

Narrowing curriculums, prescriptive exam systems and a lack of support for vocational education seem to me to be based on a worrying assumption that young people should all be on the same path. It appears to be concerned with engineering them to be what those in power (and some parents) want them to be and not designed to discover what they are good at and then helping them to realise their potential.

We may all wish that our kids become lawyers but we need plumbers too.

Maybe us parents should be led by the professionals and concentrate on supporting them to meet the needs of all young people instead?


Readers may be surprised to learn that a great deal of collaboration already takes place between the schools in our town which aims to support all students.

Brentwood’s primary and secondary schools work together as the Local Delivery Group and provide numerous facilities, holiday activities and support services for the whole of the pupil population. The latter is provided by the Extended Services group who specialise in helping vulnerable pupils and their families. They can be found at @brentwoodldg on Twitter.

Having recently received charitable status, the Brentwood Learning Partnership Association seeks to raise funds to support these activities. I was delighted to see that they (eventually) benefitted from the recent allocation of the Council’s Share Fund.


Brentwood’s schools have very active PTAs and parent groups. Our children’s Junior school is no exception so I was very surprised when they recently failed to fill a vacant parent governor position. Having spoken to other parents, teachers, current and former governors of other schools I understand that this is not unusual.

I’d be very interested to know what local people and other parents think. What would make you become a governor? What puts you off? Are governing boards really full of “local worthies” as Michael Gove recently claimed? Any thoughts will be welcome via our group mailbox

I will follow this up in the New Year, in the meantime I hope you, and your children, enjoy some time away from work.


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