Exit the Brexit then focus on education

Exit the Brexit then focus on education

In a few weeks’ time, we will have another Prime Minister and just like the last three years, the entire focus of the Conservative leadership campaign has been centred on Brexit.

I appreciate that whoever takes up the mantle will urgently need to look at resolving the Brexit issue but it would also be nice to hear more from Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt on other policy issues.

Of course, for me, education is one of the most important domestic issues facing the country and I hope in the coming days we hear more from the two men on this.

So far Jeremy Hunt has said entrepreneurs who create at least 10 jobs for five years should have their university tuition fee debts written off.

He also wants to boost the teaching profession through more funding and abolishing illiteracy.

Boris Johnson has promised to increase spending on secondary school pupils to £5,000 for each pupil.

He has also called for the funding gap between city and rural schools to be closed.

These sound bites from both men are encouraging and I look forward to hearing more detail from both of them.

In this campaign so far neither leadership contender has mentioned grammar schools as a way of boosting meritocracy.

My personal hope is they will take up what Theresa May never completed and that is to enable new grammar schools to once again be built so we can provide the best education to the academically able – whatever their social background.

We currently have selection based on wealth, with the best state comprehensives in the leafiest, high-property priced areas.

It’s time to reintroduce selection by ability so academically bright children from poorer backgrounds are not left behind in failing schools.

A new grammar school in every town would help achieve this, particularly if they are built in the poorer areas first.

Those who are against grammar schools say the children who fail the 11 plus and go to ‘secondary state moderns’ effectively become second class citizens.

My view is that doesn’t have to be the case.

If we change the education system so that all talents are equally recognised there would be no need to have this perceived divide.

In Germany, they successfully operate an education system that benefits both the academically bright and the vocationally gifted.

We too should follow this route and ensure that new vocational-focused schools are held in the same esteem as grammar schools. All talents should be nurtured and treated equally as valuable to the country’s future prosperity.

If Boris Johnson is the next Prime Minister, as current polls would indicate, then I am hopeful this approach to education will become a step closer.

His views were clear when he was London Mayor when he said the decision to ban new grammar schools “a real tragedy for this country.”

He is clearly in favour of grammar school expansion and if he eventually commands a clear majority in parliament I believe this will happen.

As Mayor, he said: “Competition in children is inevitable and the evidence I see is that kids love competing.

“There should be some sort of academic recognition and I see that as a way forward. We should be open about it.”

“The fee-paying sector is the one sector where academic selection is legally possible, and we should have a look at that. It shouldn’t be taboo.”

Speaking of his own experience of selection at Eton College, he added: “It gave us a horrific urge to do better so it should not be anathema.”

That horrific urge to do better has never been so badly needed by this country as we face a post-Brexit future – and I hope whoever leads this country will understand that education is the key to achieving that.