Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Missing the point

Missing the point

 

I read a curious newspaper report two weekends ago. Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother, was talking about his school days and wishing that he hadn’t been sent off to boarding school (Eton got him to Oxford: I think it’s his boarding prep school he really regrets). He said he hated going away to school and would have rather gone to state school.

That’s fine. But I couldn’t help feeling that both the noble earl and the journalist who wrote up the story fell into that usual trap of assuming that there’s either state (comprehensive) school or a boarding school such as Eton, with nothing in between.

It is extraordinary how, whenever there is debate, argument or controversy about the two sectors in education, the argument always becomes polarised between the neighbourhood comprehensive and the distant (posh) boarding school with boaters, tail-coats and all that. State grammar schools (still 174 of them, I think) tend to be left out of the equation, not least because selective education remains an embarrassment for MPs who just don’t want to debate the issue. As for that powerful body within the private sector, the independent day schools of which we might claim the RGS is something of a flagship, they are generally overlooked.

I don’t understand it. Is it just laziness? Or lazy thinking, at any rate? The RGS belongs to a cluster group within HMC called LIDS (Leading Independent Day Schools). The heads meet every term: deputies, and sometimes subject heads, get together once a year. It’s a fantastic loose association of similar schools, membership encompassing such great schools as Manchester Grammar and Bristol Grammar in the North- and South-West respectively: The Perse in the East; King Edward’s (Birmingham) in the Midlands; and, in the South, such giants as Magdalen College School (Oxford), St Paul’s, Highgate, Haberdashers Aske’s Boys and University College.

Look at the various newspaper performance tables that I don’t approve of, and you’ll see we mingle with some powerful addresses. I’m not boasting: the RGS simply collaborates with its peers.

I only mention this relationship because it’s a shame that both Earl Spencer and (yet again) The Times overlooked the variety and richness of school types between the two extremes which are quoted to the exclusion of all others. And, in terms of sheer academic attainment and progression to top universities and courses, our bit of the sector is arguably what contributes most to making the UK independent sector the best group of schools in the world.

Bernard Trafford

Headmaster