On grammar schools

Few issues raise as much heated debated within education circles in the UK as does the topic of grammar school expansion. Those in favour argue that grammar schools help academically bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds obtain a better form of education than they would otherwise receive in a comprehensive. In defending their position, supporters point to grammar schools’ typically smaller classroom sizes, which provide students more opportunities to participate in deeper discussions and make it easier for teachers to focus on individual students’ needs. Advocates also highlight grammar schools’ stellar exam results and roll call of successful alumni (though many comprehensive schools can also proudly toot their own horns about the accomplishments of their former students).

Research conducted by the IFS suggests that grammar schools are beneficial for having a successful career and higher income. In addition, a report by the Sutton Trust noted that ‘pupils in grammar schools do better than pupils with the same characteristics in other non-selective schools’. These indicate that by receiving a better education, disadvantaged children could be empowered to improve their overall life outcomes.

Those who are against the proliferation of grammar schools contend that selective schools are socially divisive and reinforce middle class privilege. The view of this camp is that families from wealthier backgrounds are better able to prepare their children to take 11+ exams (by paying for extra tuition or sending their children to private primary schools, for example). They can also afford homes, which by virtue of being in the catchment area of good grammar schools are more expensive (and out of the reach of families on lower incomes).

In addition, opponents argue that comprehensive schools in areas where there are grammar schools perform worse than those without grammar schools. This could be because grammar schools are able to ‘lure’ the best teachers or because removing the ‘top students’ has a negative effect on a school’s overall performance. Critics also note that the grammar school system is potentially damaging to young people’s confidence and self-esteem as it inadvertently labels children who don’t pass the 11 + as ‘failures’ or ‘less intelligent’.

In my own opinion, and given my life experiences, I believe the nation would be far better served if the government invested in raising the quality of state comprehensives rather than focusing on a wholesale increase in the number of grammar schools. To be sure, I have many close friends from disadvantaged backgrounds who have benefited immensely from attending a grammar school or securing a private school scholarship. Therefore I cannot deny that attending one of these types of schools can positively impact an individual’s life outcomes. Nevertheless, one should not mix up the potential benefit that attending a grammar school may have on an individual, with the overall effect that an expansion of the grammar schools system may have on the educational outcome of the nation as a whole. The reality remains that the majority of disadvantaged pupils will attend a comprehensive. As such, the government should be focused on implementing policies that will benefit the wider population of young people, rather than a select cohort of pupils who have access to the knowledge and resources required to take advantage of these opportunities.

Advertisements

On new motherhood

09a21ab118bd763522e535efece346ca

Both images by Deun Ivory

 

I had a multitude of emotions when I first found out I was pregnant. I was nervous and excited about being a mum. Although we ‘planned’ to get pregnant and I knew that I definitely wanted children, I was not 100% sure that the timing was right. I had so many goals that I wanted to achieve, and wasn’t sure how I could accomplish them whilst being a mother. I was scared about being responsible for someone else’s life and worried that I would lose my identity.

At the same time, however, I could not wait to meet my baby and dreamed about all the joyous moments we would share. I smiled at the thought of having a mini-me wrap their finger in mine; gurgle, crawl, walk, come for cuddles and talk. I looked forward to being part of the network of mothers who put their heart and soul into loving and raising champions.

When they handed my daughter to me in the hospital, I lay there shocked at the intensity of it all. It felt like the most natural thing in the world but it also felt traumatising. I felt like I was part of a miracle. I was in physical pain, mentally exhausted and didn’t even have the energy to comprehend that they were handing me a baby and how my life was about to change, but I was so grateful to God that she was there, alive and well. I vowed to be the best mum possible to her.

Now that I’m actually living the daily grind of motherhood. I can say that it is 🙂 😦 >:D 😥  😀 :/ ^^’ ❤ 😀 o_O. It is constant prayer and compassion. It is over-worrying that I’m doing everything wrong and amazement at my ability to do things I have never done before. It is playing breastfeeding by the ear and hoping that my child is not starving. It is trusting in my motherly intuition that my child is not sick, whilst googling every symptom just to check. It is feeling guilty when my child is crying and I simply just want a moment to myself in silence – to do nothing but stare at the wall, peruse Pinterest for DIY ideas I don’t have the time to do, or read a book.

Motherhood is believing in yourself. It is being patient as you and your child both learn and grow. It is trusting that you have that mum magic. It is willing your child to sleep so that you can sleep and then staying up all night staring at them to make sure they are still breathing. It is crazy. It is repeat insomnia. It is being tired and overtired. It is being somebody’s safe space and giving all you have. It is learning to love your self correctly. It is being in love and having your heart live its own life outside of you. It is delivering on your goals and dreams. It is people questioning what you do all day. It is you questioning what you do all day and then wondering how you did all you did some days. It is unmet deadlines and messy rooms. Motherhood is spit up on your new outfits and baby smiles. Motherhood is delightful and it is hard. It is continuously connecting and incessantly learning.

Motherhood is truly a gift and whilst it is crazy, I’m evolving and I’m grateful for it.

Utter Chaos!

I sat gobsmacked watching the news last weekend. There was carnage in Paris – dead bodies sprawled out on the floor, attacks in 6 locations, every news channel repeated that there were over 100 people dead. It looked like a scene from a horror movie. I watched a shaky video recording of a pregnant woman hanging from a window trying to escape and an astonished young man relaying how his phone had saved him from a bullet. He missed death by about an inch. Utter madness.

Although it wasn’t covered in the news a great deal, the day before there was also a suicide attack in Beirut. 43 people died and 239 were seriously wounded. Reports stated that a man called Adel Termos who was walking with his daughter tackled a second suicide bomber to the ground and prevented him from killing more. Sadly Termos died in that attack. He will be remembered by many as a hero.

On the same day as the Paris attacks, in Baghdad, there was a roadside bombing and an explosion at a funeral. Just like that…innocent people were massacred whilst simply going about their normal activities. My heart goes out to all of the people affected. There are no words to describe what they must be going through.

Several people who knew about the latter incidents also highlighted that there was a lack of coverage in the media about Beirut and Baghdad and several other atrocities taking place in the world. On Instagram, many people criticised Tiwa Savage (a Nigerian popstar) for posting a ‘pray for Paris’ picture and asked if she had also remembered to pray for Nigeria.

Whilst I agree that the Western media should provide a much wider coverage of all terrorist attacks, I had to roll my eyes at some of the comments. Many called Savage a hypocrite, yet they have no idea how much she prays for or what anguish she feels for her own country. Wherever one is in the world, should one not have a right to mourn or show compassion for whoever they want without being told that their empathy is misdirected? Are people who live in Europe not allowed to feel shock that terrorism, which always feels so far away, has now been brought to their doorstep?

What happened in Beirut, Baghdad, Paris and everywhere there are such vile attacks, is incredibly sad and entirely devastating. However, I also believe that rather than criticising people who choose to show compassion for a specific incident, we as global citizens should take much more interest in what is going on in the world.

The mainstream media will respond to the demands of their consumers. Indeed, there were some news outlets that covered the Beirut and Baghdad bombings, but many of us didn’t see it, ignored or scrolled past it – because we have the misplaced perception that war in Baghdad, Beirut etc. happen all the time and is not our concern. That thinking needs to change. The attack in Beirut, for example, was the worst experienced in Lebanon since 2013, when 2 mosques were bombed in the coastal town of Tripoli. Attacks like that are not everyday events in Lebanon.

I’m not going to lie, I was completely shocked at what happened in Paris and as I took the train to work this morning, I pondered on the idea that the busy train we were on could be a pawn in some geo-political strategy and suddenly blow up at any minute. I mused on the consequences of France’s defiant retaliation strategy. I felt sad about the state of our world. I reflected on the fact that the UK was so close to France and wondered if we would ever need to get used to the idea that our homes could become a frontline of warfare. Life is fragile and it is precious everywhere. I whispered a prayer under my breath for God’s protection because we never know what tomorrow may bring.