Wednesday, 18 January 2017

On selective education


Selective education is back on the agenda. The Conservative Government wants more grammar schools, arguing that this is an enabler for greater social mobility. I suggest that the reverse is true; selection is a barrier for the poorest.

For starters, fewer than 3% of entrants to grammar schools are entitled to free school meals, whereas almost 13% of entrants come from outside the state sector, largely be­lieved to be prep schools. Unless you believe that those in receipt of free school meals are less intelligent than the rest then something is clearly amiss here.

Coaching for the eleven plus (which somewhat defies the idea that the eleven plus test is an arbiter of natural intelligence) is not available to the poor. Being poor also throws up all sorts of barriers. However, it is the idea of separation that troubles me.

Whilst I am happy to have streaming in many subjects, I do not see that separate schools need to exist for the supposed intelligent to alone occupy. Society is all of us, rubbing along together. School is about equipping our children for adulthood, and segregation only encourages prejudice.

This is not about dumbing down, but rather a plea for the best education to be available to all. It is also about having a society where everyone matters, where prejudice is eradicated, and where all are encouraged to achieve their full potential. I do not see how grammar schools are compatible with these ideals.

There are, at present, 163 grammar schools in England, spread across 36 of the 152 local authorities. This means that 116 local authorities manage to educate their young without such segregation. We should  be encouraging universal comprehensive education, not looking to drag education backwards. This government is wrong, and they should be opposed.

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