The principle of comprehensive education is acceptable to all who seek to ensure the right of every child. irrespective of class. privilege or chance to the benefits of a full education.
The adoption of the comprehensive school, and the true reasons for the change are obvious. The political reason for change less so, for distinction within class will always exist. it is the respect for human dignity which is lacking, and who is the teacher?
Many children have been deprived of advancement, never reaching full maturity, through errors of selection and indifference, The progress of each child can he monitored more easily within one school. The continuity of a more realistic religious education as a more mature age is obvious. Let us acknowledge the wisdom of the school commissioners in adopting the change for aided schools.
Thirty years have elapsed since the idea was initiated with some success. Sectorial interests and monetary restrictions must be catered for, but if the desire for unity with equal opportunity he the hope for the future then let us secure the foundation of future progress. G. Smith 2 Shepiston Lane, Harlington.
In your issue of October 3 you state that the Main object of comprehensive systems of education is "to enable every child to attain his optimum educational potential and to ensure that none should be penalised."
What you mean by that grossly overworked word "penalised" I do not know. Possibly it may stand for "suffer some disadvantage."
If that is what it means, one could find means to avoid a word which inevitably tends to imply that the disadvantage is intended by some malicious person when in fact it is not.
Those who are engaged in education for the proper motives will all concur that the main objective of education is to enable every child to attain his optimum educational potential. The difference of opinion is in respect of the means.
Some people — including, evidently, yourself — believe that the only means to this end is to establish comprehensive schools for everybody; others believe that the end may be obtained as well or better by other means. You evidently doubt not their judgment, but their sincerity.
C. E. Robin 29 Wadhurst Road, Birmingham 17.
Recent letters in support of Catholic direct-grant schools have spoken of them as if they existed in complete isolation, ignoring the reality that they exist alongside Catholic comprehensive schools and their selection each year of the most able academic 11-year-old pupils deprives our Catholic comprehensive schools of the talent and ability they require to make them truly comprehensive, as are their non-Catholic neighbours.
The effect of the direct-grant system is far greater in the Catholic sector of education than in the State sector. Whereas nationally the Catholics are only about 10 per cent of the population, 30 per cent of all direct-grant schools are Catholic.
In my own area. Avon, figures are even more striking State comprehensive schools 57, non-Catholic direct-grant schools, seven; Catholic comprehensive schools, four; and Catholic direct-grant schools, two. The result is a selection of over 15 per cent for the Catholic population.
This makes the establishment of flourishing Catholic comprehensive schools almost impossible and is a grave injustice to those schools which cater for the majority of our Catholic youth.
Nor would these more able children suffer academically from being in our comprehensive schools. My own experience, and that of my nearneighbours, bears out fully our belief that given the able children, we produce a result quite as good as direct-grant schools do with such children.
P. W. Tagney Headmaster St Bernadette School, Fossedale Avenue, Bristol.
As a Catholic parent whose six children have been or arc being educated entirely to my satisfaction in a Catholic comprehensive school, I feel impelled to say how scandalised and embarrassed many sincere Catholic parents are that some of the most vocal defenders of the selective direct-grant schools should be Catholics of a different outlook.
At a time when "classharriers" in society are gradually breaking down, some elements within the Church seem determined to keep it stratified, despite its claim to a God-given mission • to all mankind.
And the "simple" Catholic may still be forgiven for seeing an inconsistency between the monastic commitment to poverty and the monastic involvement in expensive education for the financially betteroff.
The effect of my own children's education has been to integrate them not only into total Catholic community, but also into the wider society outside school, All achieve then maximum potential, and the
least able plodder has, happily, shared the same school experience as the brightest, I am grateful for that.
No sensitive mother enjoys seeing her own family segregated by ability, since she values all her children equally.
and the State, as wise parent, must also abhor such invidious distinctions, knowing that a system which can sadly divide a family can even more tragically divide a nation.
Is it too much to ask Lhat Mother Church should be as caring?
(Mrs) Margaret O'Shea 4 Willowfield, Harlow, Essex.
The comprehensive school as an institution with its own characteristic modes of behaviour and philosophy, does not exist as a recognisably uniform school, similar in all essentials in each locality, that some of your correspondents seem to see.
There are excessively large urban comprehensive schools, which are hureaucracies. Most adults are sometimes unhappy in bureaucratic institutions, There is every reason to believe that most children are certain to he so.
1-urthermore, many big schools arc inefficient bureaucracies. There are a number of smaller comprehensive schools, excellent in the way that the English grammar school is often held to be excellent (though it often was not) with a quiet devotion to traditional values.
What is distressing to those of us who are trying to maintain our stan• dards and our traditions is the failure of many who think as we do to emerge from their defensive positions in relation to grammar and direct-grant schools, and to see that the struggle for the soul of a nation is not to be conducted around the particular form of organisation our schools take.
Your correspondent, John l)enza (October 3) asserts that "A comprehensive school cannot have an academic atmosphere — unless it is to run on lines quite unsuitable for many."
Many comprehensive schools do not have an academic atmosphere, or more plainly, they arc schools in which a devotion to work and high endeavour is not sought, and the life of the mind is not seen as a growth of sufficient value to be cuttivated.They arc poor schools. But they are not necessarily poor because they are comprehensive.
The fault in the argument of those who wish to preserve the status quo is that they are ready to defend, quite properly, the traditional standards and values which they see embodied in the grammar schools, but are unable, or unwilling, to suggest how the "secondary modern" might be made acceptable.
As Mr Denza points out, many secondary modern schools were successfully "improved." But these were the schools which departed from the notion of what such a school should be, and began to adopt some of the aims and philosophies of the grammar schools.
The difference in educational treatment to be given to pupils of different abilities is a difference in degree, not in kind. What matters is that each pupil should achieve the best that is in him. That all pupils will not achieve the same uniformly high standard is clear, and is as true of the grammar school as of any other. In my view, the overall objective is most capable of achievement in the smaller comprehensive.
What is important now is that we should alter our focus of attention. More important than the particular form of organisation is what goes on inside the schools, at both primary and secondary stages, and the quality and beliefs of the people who staff them.
L. R. Smith Headmaster, Holy Trinity School. Chequers, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.
Our Lady at Lourdes
This summer my parents, sister and I went to Lourdes. I was saddened to read the article of October 17, "My Mixed Feelings on Lourdes," by Kevin McNamara.
My family stayed in a simple guest-house — one of many such guest-houses — which was in the quieter part of the town, and the short walk to the Domain took us through fields and not past shops and hotels. Despite this fact we did not begrudge the sick people and the other pilgrims the hotels and gift-shops.
For many, the sick and their nurses, this was the one break from a bare hospital room and the one chance for a proper holiday at a place where they are treated as the important ones. For many people, as it was for my family, it was the first trip abroad and the English tearooms were very welcome.
Even if now the whole original miracle of Lourdes was proved beyond doubt to have been faked, the pilgrims would still go, for even if Our Blessed Lady was not there a hundred years ago, she is there today, in the hearts of all, or nearly all, who go to Lourdes, and in the spirit of love that they take back home.
Elizabeth Lee (Aged 13) 56 Leegate Road, Heaton Moor, Stockport, Cheshire.
I object strongly to Kevin McNarnara's article (October 17) on Lourdes, which will give pain to many.
If he must fill up three columns of your paper each week he should confine himself to subjects on which he is qualified to speak. The "halo" effect whereby an expert in one field feels competent to pontificate on every other is disastrous.
It reminds me of a newspaper article I saw once: "Why I believe in Hell," by Jimmy Q goalkeeper for Celtic!
(Sister) Mary Consuela Convent of Notre Dame, 9 Victoria Circus, Dowanhill, Glasgow.