Monday, October 13, 2008

Police called in to prevent 'havoc' at school entrance exam in Britain

British parents know the value of "Grammar" (selective) schools but the British government does not. It is trying to abolish them instead of building more. A British "Grammar" school is a publicly-funded school run along private school lines -- with admission dependant upon passing an entrance exam. British Leftists hate them because they are "elitist". But the Leftist alternatives -- non-selective "comprehensive" schools -- are often a behavioural sink -- thus preventing even bright children from learning and so closing off their advancement to higher education

Police had to be called to a top grammar school to prevent havoc during an entrance exam day. Officers had to patrol the car park as visitors came to sit the 11-plus exam and threatened to cause chaos at the school. Nearly 1,500 pupils were competing for 126 places at Wallington County Grammar School in Sutton, Surrey.

Competition for highly-rated grammar schools has risen as parents are looking at cheaper alternatives to private schools during the financial crisis. The Good Schools Guide shows applications at almost one in five private schools has dropped by 10 per cent in four years. Highly rated grammar schools on the other hand attract at least 10 applicants for every place, especially schools such as Wallington which do well in the exam league tables without demanding fees.

Wallington, an 880-pupil school which admits girls in the sixth form, obtained five GCSEs at grades A* to C (including English and maths) for 98 per cent of its pupils last year. Tina Marden, admissions secretary, said: "We had 1,496 applications for 126 places this year and we are still expecting some 'lates'. "We had to have the police down to control parking... we are on a red route and, if we didn't, people would cause havoc."

Robert McCartney QC, chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association, said that applications across the country have risen in record numbers. He said: "Many aspirational parents who want their children to have a good education have tightened their belts and gone without other things to give them a place at independent school. "One of the effects of the credit crunch is that those people that were just able to make the fees are no longer able to do so. "Because of the poor state of the comprehensive system, they are desperate to get their children into grammar schools."

A Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed they were asked to attend last month's exams at the grammar school.


France in shock as dictionary Le Petit Robert relaxes language rules

Modernization of spelling makes sense. English could do with some. But alternative spellings? Sounds like a recipe for confusion

Schoolchildren are celebrating, commentators are astonished and purists are fuming over what they describe as a scandalous attack on 500 years of French history. In the most sweeping linguistic reform in France for centuries, Le Petit Robert, the nation's premier dictionary, has cast aside tradition to allow alternative spellings for thousands of words. Accents have become optional, consonants can be doubled on a whim and hyphens will float in and out of literary texts under the changes imposed by Alain Rey, the linguist responsible for the opus.

He says that the reform has been necessary to enable a rigidly codified language to move forward in a society of slang and multi-ethnic innovation. "We have to make spelling simpler," he said. "It's too complicated and it's not surprising that schoolchildren have trouble learning it."

In an attempt to ease their task in schools that continue to impose weekly dictations, he has included variable spellings for 6,000 of the 60,000 words in his dictionary, including many of foreign, and notably English, origin. Cameraman, for instance, can be written with or without an acute accent over the "e" in Le Petit Robert 2009, published this month. Manager can be spelt manageur and acupuncture can be turned into acuponcture.

Mr Rey says that reform was long overdue, since the last great linguistic clean-up in 1762, when medieval spellings were prodded into what became modern French. He points out that the changes have been authorised by l'Acad‚mie Fran‡aise, the body that regulates the language, and that the concept of twin spellings is nothing new. The French word for key, for example, has been written two different ways for years, he says - cle or clef.

However, the initiative has sparked a furious row in a country that has clung to la langue fran‡aise as a pillar of its identity ever since King Fran‡ois I made it the official language in 1539. "Until now, we tended to consider the French language dictionary as the supreme judge, the final arbiter," Pierre Assouline, the renowned literary commentator for Le Monde, said. "We doubted, it decided, we obeyed. Those were the good old times. Confidence reigned. What are we to do if it is having doubts itself?"

The controversy has spread to internet forums, where users have denounced the arrival of text-message terms at the heart of Gallic culture. "I am scandalised," one opponent from southern France said. "We have a grammar and our roots. How can you just sweep that all away? One day text messages will replace our cherished French language." Comments on Le Figaro's chat forum accused Mr Rey of "treason", "spreading illiteracy" and "dumbing down" the nation's culture.

Some pointed out that his move flew in the face of President Sarkozy's drive to improve spelling among primary school children after a survey showed that 15 per cent of them had "grave difficulties" in French.

Michel Schifres, a commentator for Le Figaro, took a more cheerful view. "Is there more beautiful combat than to fight over your language? What other people than us is capable of that? It's a whole lot better than Japan, an ageing country, which has just invented a fashion show for elderly people in nappies."


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