I am going to apply some logic to the controversial issue of grammar schools. First, we know that academic selection is beneficial to driving up educational standards – as Graham Brady MP bravely highlighted in his constituency, Altrincham and Sale, which has grammar schools.
The Conservatives, under pressure from Mr Dominic Grieve QC, a Buckinghamshire MP who has grammar schools in his constituency, acknowledged that where there was increasing demand, new grammar schools should be build.
We learn from today’s Telegraph that
The number of pupils entered for the 11-plus – the grammar school entrance test – has soared to a record high this year, figures show.
As the first children in England sat the exam this week, it was disclosed that entries in one county jumped by a fifth compared to 2007.
It follows the disclosure that independent school fees have increased by more than 40 per cent in the last six years alone, sparking claims that many families can no longer afford an independent education.
According to the Good Schools Guide, many of the most popular grammar schools – particularly those in outer London – have had 10 applications for every place.
Robert McCartney, chairman of the National Grammar Schools’ Association, said: “The on-going deterioration of the comprehensive system in England is forcing more and more parents to opt for alternative forms of education.”
The twin factors of rising independent school fees and the deterioration of comprehensive education – not to mention the impact of the credit crunch – means that we should open new grammar schools.
I hope that the former public schoolboys on the Conservative Frontbench realise that Labour (such as ex public schoolboy Ed Balls) is denying ordinary kids the educational opportunities they deserve. It is, therefore, vital that the Tories pledge to create new grammar schools to meet this soaring demand and to offset the educational apartheid that is the legacy of 11 years of New Labour misrule.
And why should children that have been born since May 1997 be prevented from fulfilling their potential in life by outdated 60s educational ideology being followed by the ‘heirs of Crossland’?
An article in the Telegraph today reports Brown’s forthcoming speech to “education leaders” alleging that Maggie caused the UK’s chronic social immobility. I would be one of the last people to defend the ‘means to the end’ of restructuring the economy in the 1980s, given that my father was made redundant from his manufacturing job in 1985 – never to work again – but I think Brown’s argument is ludicrous.
As Ordovicius rightly points out:
Is this the best Brown can come up with after one year at number 10 and ten years as Chancellor? Will David Cameron respond by blaming Callaghan for the UK’s woes? Me thinks not.
And Glyn Davies notes that:
After 11 years of Labour Government in which Gordon Brown has controlled the public finances, British people born poor stay poor. Even in the area where his rhetoric is strongest, the Prime Minister’s performance is failure. And what is he proposing to reverse this. Some quite small scale pilot projects, the one being given prominence by the BBC being to give public money to families who join schemes which include health checks and nutritional advice to improve social development. I’m not going to disagree with this until I see what evidence the proposal is based on – but it does smack of Gordon Brown’s belief that just throwing public money at every problem is the answer. But by trying to throw all the blame on a woman, who was ten times the man he is, Gordon Brown has diminished himself in the eyes of the British people today.
Beautifully put, Glyn.
Apart from the fact that Brown seems to unwilling for his party or himself to take any responsibility for their 11 years in government, the article highlights a few other reasons why Tories will feel justified in branding him a hypocrite…
There were winners and losers from the Thatcherite economic policies, but those policies have continued unabated – under Labour, hundreds of thousands (if not millions?) of manufacturing jobs have been lost, as the economy continues to become ever more dependent upon services and outsources (and imports) from the developing world. Developing countries, such as China and India, have benefited from their ability to manufacture cheaply, though they have replaced the manufacturing workforce of the UK. However, you will be shocked if you watch tonight’s Panorama exposé on child labour in a Primark subcontractor in India.
Back to the point, does living in a workless household preclude social mobility? It didn’t for me. I went to university – tens of thousands of working-class kids (even when the parents’ jobs had gone) in Northern Ireland go to good schools, and then often on to university.
And what happens if you’re a bright working-class kid in most parts of England? Tough luck is the official policy, unless you happen to live in Trafford (3 cheers to Graham Brady!), Kent, Buckinghamshire (3 cheers to Dominic Grieve!). You can go to a grammar school, that’s what. If you don’t live in such an area, tough luck, that’s what Ed Balls is basically saying.
Shirley Williams lost her Hertford & Stevenage seat in the 1979 general election not without good reason. She was the Labour Secretary of State for Education Minister who pushed through the closure of many grammar schools.
I’m not a Thatcherite (Reason: Anglo-Irish Agreement) and I’m not going to defend Maggie under whose watch as Tory Secretary of State for Education many grammar schools were closed too. But this was in the Heath administration, 1970-1974, which has to rate as one of the worst Conservative Governments – Heath took the UK into the then EEC, after all.
But Brown can’t blame Maggie for social immobility. It was Labour’s abolition of grammar schools that has caused social immobility – that, for example, means that many bright black Caribbean kids in the tower-blocks in London can’t get a decent education and a chance in life. And if they do work hard, like Damilola Taylor they get murdered when coming back from the library for being too ‘clever’, or like Stephen Lawrence simply for being black?
I’ve said before that the Tories have annoyed me lately, but better they than Labour, the grammar school abolishers: and Michael Gove has restored at least some confidence. Melanie Phillips highlights that there may be ‘some hope’ for bright working-class kids (including children from workless households),
On a visit last week to Trafford, which maintains both selective and comprehensive schools, the Tory schools spokesman Michael Gove declared robustly that grammar schools must be ‘absolutely defended’. …
… All Mr Gove needs to do is move his geographical pointer a bit farther along the map to the Netherlands to find a progressive country where selective schools are part of an education system driven, as it should be, by parental choice rather than state control.
Academic selection lies at the very heart of intellectual achievement, social justice and individual aspiration. They are impossible without it. That’s why it is a totemic issue by which any party aspiring to government must be judged.
I wouldn’t have got to university had it not been for Foyle & Londonderry College, my grammar school, but Brown ‘n’ Balls would have denied me this opportunity had they the chance. It is Labour that is the true enemy of social mobility.
12.01pm Update: I am furious about Labour’s approach to grammar schools, after seeing the rubbish from Ed ‘So What?’ Balls on the front of the Telegraph this morning. Here is an excellent blog from The Last Boy Scout:
I think Mr Balls needs a reality check. Instead of trying to improve the standard of the Secondary modern schools, he goes for the easier option of attacking the grammars. He even had the nerve to suuggest that “the system [of academic selection] left secondary modern pupils feeling as if they were failures” when they were unsuccessful in their applications.
The whole speech yesterday was a bit rich coming from the Schools Secretary after just last week he asked for “the help of grammar schools in raising standards at the 638 schools where fewer than 30 per cent of pupils achieve five good GCSEs“. So in just a week he has gone from saying that grammar can help solve the problem, to blaming them as being part of the problem.
Today in the Telegraph you will read that 1 in 20 white boys go to university, compared to 66% of Indian girls. Even more heartbreaking, fewer than 1 in 20 black Caribbean boys make it to university. People came from Jamaica, Trinidad and elsewhere for opportunity – but they don’t get equality of opportunity in the UK today.
Social breakdown is happening partly because the ladders of opportunity – whether Employment or Education – have been kicked away from many of our youngsters, whether they’re white boys or the bright young black Caribbean kids who often have their talents denied because they were sent to a sink school. Social justice isn’t being served by the current education policy of any major party.
It was different for me, of course, a working-class kid from a ‘workless’ household who managed to get into the local grammar school and make it to university in the 1990s. In Ulster young people have the highest rates of university attendance in the UK. What’s more, almost 100% of students at Queen’s University Belfast are from state schools. Yes, 100% from state schools, mostly grammar schools (which are under attack – Labour perhaps piloting its plan to destroy English grammars). And a very large propotion of these students are from working-class families.
New Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve helped clarify the Tory position after the Willetts’ despicable comments. I would hope that Mr Gove starts to make the case for new grammar schools – and not just in Buckinghamshire.
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