A grammar school in every town

A grammar school in every town

In Response to ‘Grammar schools and the opportunity gap: 10 questions for Nicky Morgan’, an article that appeared in the Guardian stating the views of a particular parent about the choices in Kent secondary schools.

The recent decision of the government to allow grammar schools that were oversubscribed to open annexes has sparked off some familiar and well-worn arguments.

On the one hand, there are those that believe selective education is intrinsically unfair because it segregates children and attempts to identify those who are suitable for a more academic path.

On the other hand, those that support grammar schools argue that the present system of comprehensive education, which incidentally applies almost universally across Great Britain is anything but egalitarian.

The comprehensive system may reign supreme almost universally across the nation, but it is not universally good.

Comprehensive schools in leafy suburbs and wealthy areas are generally high performing and those parents that can afford to buy houses in those particular catchment areas have the right to send their children to these schools.

Poorer performing schools are often found in inner-city areas and regions with higher levels of social deprivation.

Naturally, the parents in the catchments of these schools have little choice but to send their children to these particular establishments.

Ironically, a flagship policy of a 1960s Labour government and the following Conservative administration managed to replace one system they deemed as unfair with another that was based largely on wealth and even more discriminatory.

Successive governments have tried to address the issue of raising standards by introducing City Technology Colleges, giving schools grant-maintained status, academisation, creating ‘Free Schools’ and finally admitting that there is no ideological answer and allowing variety.

There is perhaps a better way forward than grammar school annexes.

A return to the policy of ‘a grammar school in every town’ championed by the four Conservative leaders before Cameron is in my opinion the best option.

A planned but limited expansion of the grammar school system across the nation would both preserve the comprehensive system, but also take the heat out of the competition for grammar school places.

It would still mean the vast majority of children would be educated in the comprehensive system but there would be an academic route for the most academically talented.

A limited but even spread of grammar schools would also mean that talented children from working-class backgrounds would also have an opportunity to sit for these places.

The current pressure on places has made the competition very intense and the wealthiest parents have also targeted these schools and the catchment issue has meant that many less well off children have no chance of taking these places.

One further issue should also be considered.

The individualistic nature of our society and the focus on people’s equal rights has often blinded us to a wider national issue.

What does the nation need? Yes, our country must give opportunities to everybody, but it must also ensure that those from poorer backgrounds who are talented are given the same chances as those from wealthy backgrounds who are gifted.

Ability is not necessarily inherited or passed from one generation to another.

Great Britain must train its elite as these people are the future leaders, entrepreneurs, creative artists and pacesetters that will maintain our position in the global market place.

Grammar schools have certainly identified talented people from all class backgrounds in the past and could again do this in the future.