Sheffield's educational scene is changing. But if a fully comprehensive
system is introduced, will a special case be made of King Edward's? There is
a widely held belief that consideration is being given to turning it into a
sixth form college. Our Municipal Correspondent discusses the possibilities
which face the school.
IN SHEFFIELD'S changing educational scene, the foremost topic of discussion at the moment is: what is going to happen to King Edward VII School?
Will the city's premier grammar school, with its long and respected tradition, be submerged in the coming comprehensive system ? Or will the policymakers find some sort of compromise as a concession to those who want to see the tradition live on?
Although no definite pronouncement has been made on the future of the school, there is a widely-held belief that consideration is being given to making a special case of King Edward's, and turning it into a sixth form college, a sort of super grammar school.
This belief gets some support from an article published in Forum, a nationally produced educational magazine, one of whose writers visited Sheffield to see what sort of a comprehensive system was being introduced here.
The writer spoke to the education chiefs here and the article she subsequently wrote for the summer Issue includes the sentence:
"The general aim is to have a completely comprehensive system consisting for the most part of primary, high and comprehensive schools, but consideration will be given to the possibility of a sixth form college in the south zone."
I spoke to Ald. Albert Ballard, chairman of Sheffield Education Committee to see what he had to say about this.
"No definite decision has been made with regard to the fitting of King Edward's into our comprehensive system," he said. "It will have to be considered.
'The logistics of any arrangement for it have not yet been dealt with. I should hope that the next proposals we put before the committee would possibly deal with the rest of the city, but there is nothing definite at all."
His deputy, Coun. Chris Price, himself a teacher, said: "We are not treating the next exercise as what to do with King Edward's, but how to deal with the whole of the rest of Sheffield which we have not yet re-organised.
"We are considering it at the moment, but I don't think there is any question of a decision being imminent although we are working as fast as we can.
"Further than that I cannot possibly go because we are in the comparatively early stages. "
Non-committal as these answers are, the fact remains that King Edward's as a sixth form college is being discussed as a distinct possibility outside the Education Committee.
It has, I believe, been advocated by one member of the City Council Labour Group in a ward meeting,
It has, I know, reached reached the ears of the teachers.
And it is not exactly unexpected.
Consider the position: The Committee has announced its intention of turning over to a comprehensive system of schooling, a system that will eventually mean the end of the grammar schools as we know them now.
There has been opposition from the Conservatives, not to the comprehensive system, they say, but to the killing off of the grammar schools.
There has been some opposition from the teachers, although just how much opposition is in dispute.
But public opinion has been judged to favour the change, if only because it has expressed little or no view at all. The Labour Group also point to the fact that they won back five seats on the City Council in the election that followed their comprehensive system announcement.
The first area, the north, has been launched into the change, and the second, the east, has been announced.
But so far, the grammar schools have felt very little change. The committee chose to introduce the scheme on the side of the city where there was only one established grammar school, Firth Park.
This was not necessarily to delay having to deal with the grammar schools ; it was by the same token the area which most needed new secondary education facilities.
The real test of the committee's intentions to produce a thorough comprehensive system comes with the next move, if, as Ald. Ballard says, the next move involves the whole of the rest of the city.
This will affect all the remaining grammar schools, and King Edward's is going to be the toughest nut they have to crack.
King Edward's epitomises all that the grammar school supporters want to preserve. The Old Edwardians on the City Council - and there are several - sprang to its defence when AId. Sidney Dyson described it at one meeting as an educational "sweat shop."
But it could be that the men who run education in Sheffield are afraid of something more powerful than the council opposition public opinion..
Three bodies of opinion are going to matter when they make the King Edward's decision, the public, the teachers, and the all-powerful Labour Group.
The public have not shown any strong feelings in the matter one way or another up to now. But they could when it comes to King Edward's.
The teachers are reticent in the circumstances to express their opinion publicly, but there is good reason to suppose that a fairly large body of them would resent the committee making a special case of King Edward's.
And nothing is so sure that special treatment would annoy members of the Labour Group who want to see a fully comprehensive system introduced.
Opinions are hardening now. The lobbying is being done. Whatever the committee decides, it could have a fight on its hands.
WE were dismayed to note in Coun. Price's interview on comprehensive education in Sheffield, that he referred to the achievements of King Edward VII School in the past tense.
Previously we had hoped that this school would be allowed to continue in something like its present form.
This weekend the account of one girl who, after receiving individual attention at a comprehensive school, won a scholarship at Oxford has been featured in a Sunday paper as proving the value of the comprehensive system.
Last year 31 pupils of King Edward's gained places at Oxford or Cambridge, 16 with scholarships. No publicity has been given to this since it is a normal achievement for King Edward's. It is, however, one that is not surpassed by any state or public school in the country.
If King Edward's school were a new idea instead of an old foundation, educational reformers would be demanding that every town should have such a school. Moreover, King Edward's is open equally to bright boys from all parts of Sheffield and all classes, in contrast to neighbourhood schools which tend to become class, and even colour, segregated.
With two sons at King Edward's we have first-hand knowledge of its merits. Most boys gain 8 or 9 "0 levels" after only four instead of the five years usual at most schools, yet there is no undue concentration on the O level syllabus.
In the fifth form one of our boys joined a group of nine specialising in mathematics. After four terms this group has, with apparent ease, been trained to an appreciation and mastery of mathematics which in our opinion (based on combined experience as staff or student at five universities) is equivalent to that of second-year work for a mathematics degree at many provincial universities. This high standard is essential to compete successfully for admission to Cambridge, which in mathematics is still unequalled by any university in the world. With the present dire shortage of good mathematicians, this work alone should justify the continuance of King Edward's.
We have referred to the teaching of mathematics, because in this we are in a position to judge, but the results at King Edward's are good in almost all subjects. Their achievement requires inspired teaching, and groups of boys with good basic ability.
If staff and pupils were scattered among 10 or 20 schools, few of the boys could receive such tuition. If any did, it could only be by almost individual attention, an extravagant use of the best teachers.
Shall this school which is pre-eminent In so many ways and which gives the brilliant working-class boy an education by which he can rise to the highest positions in the land, shall such a school be tossed wantonly aside on the scrapheap of irresponsible educational faddists, or unenlightened political dogma?
Supporters of King Ted's unite and fight to preserve Sheffield's greatest contribution to the nation. Now, before irrevocable decisions are made, is the time to make known your views.
Coun. PRICE has twice been reported as saying that schools like King Edward's have done a good job preparing pupils for Oxford and Cambridge, but that it is no longer necessary to concentrate to such an extent. One hopes this does not mean that Sheffield children can now be satisfied with less.
As a parent, I hope that local children will have as good a chance of reaching Oxford or Cambridge as boys in Manchester, Bradford, Birmingham or Bristol. As a citizen, I hope that Sheffield will keep its place among these cities, known throughout the country for the excellence of their leading schools.
It should be realised that valuable professional men, it they have children to educate, are at present attracted by these cities because their famous schools are admired throughout the educational world. We need expect no vociferous opposition if their views are flouted; but they deserve serious consideration.
Mr. B. Knowles, a master at King Edward VII School, Sheffield,
of some local councils setting out to destroy grammar schools for political ends.
121 Ringinglow Rd.,
Dear Dr Knowles ,
I understand that you are interested in the claim that I made that a Sheffield child had twice the chance of a place at Oxbridge that the average British child had.
I was concerned only with the chance for a child whose parents did not pay school fees.
For entry to Oxford in October 1964 there were 665 places offered to pupils of maintained grammar schools, and 325 to pupils of direct grant schools. We do not know how many of the latter had free places but I am assuming half.
This makes say 825 places. (These figures include awards). I have not the equivalent figures for Cambridge but assume they will be similar. This makes 1650 Oxbridge places for the whole country.
The population of Sheffield (about 1/2 million) is about 1% of the whole country, 56 million. Therefore Sheffield's share of places would be 16 or 17. In the same year King Edward's secured 31 places, and although this is rather a good year I think that with all the other grammar schools in Sheffield the figure will usually be between 30 and 35.
I hope this seems convincing to you. I am sorry by the way that you were never invited to any meeting to discuss my plan, but no-one on our Committee seemed prepared to commit themselves one way or the other, and it was ultimately put out as my plan.