It’s an A+ for Jonathan Gullis MP

It’s an A+ for Jonathan Gullis MP

At last, a Conservative MP has made the case for the expansion of grammar schools.

Jonathan Gullis MP – a former teacher – is urging the Prime Minister to lift the ban on new free schools being selective.

He is thought to have the backing of 200 fellow back benchers – and quite possibly cabinet members too.

Half of the country’s remaining 163 grammar schools are in the south and south-east, meaning this form of education is denied to millions, across swathes of the country.

Their opponents complain about ‘unfairness’, but the unfairness comes by denying grammar school education to those who don’t live near a grammar school.

Real unfairness occurs when the best comprehensive schools drive up house prices within their catchment areas, denying quality education to those who can’t afford to live there.

When grammar schools were ubiquitous they gave the brightest children the ability to compete with those from private schools.

Theresa May, Margaret Thatcher, Edward Heath, and Harold Wilson all went to grammar schools.

Gordon Brown was educated in a High School (Scotland’s version of a grammar school) and other Labour big-hitters including Barbara Castle and Dennis Healy went to grammar schools.

Outside of politics, Mick Jagger, Sting, John Lennon, Dudley Moore, and Alan Bennet all benefitted from a grammar school education.

We do have selection across the country, but it is selection by wealth. Those who can afford to live in leafy suburbs get to send their children to the best schools.

The rest often go to poorer performing Comprehensives.

This type of selection is far less palatable than selection through entrance tests.

Successive governments have hoisted up the mantra that ‘every school should be a good local school’ – try telling the parents that.

You won’t get very far.

It is a postcode lottery and if you can’t afford the house, you can’t have the school of your choice.

Entrance testing is not perfect but at least it gives children a chance to compete for places.

I don’t agree with much John Major said but he did have the right approach when it came to grammar schools and one new one did open under his premiership – Queen Elizabeth Boys in Barnet.

He had the idea of a grammar school in every town and I think this is an excellent policy.

It is not a return to a full Grammar school system, but it will allow academically bright children a chance to focus on this aspect of their education.

We need to give opportunities to children from poorer backgrounds to go to grammar schools. Private education should not be the only other option to comprehensives.

Many politicians from various parties are quite happy to send their children into the private system, meaning for some, it is a policy of: ‘Do as I say and not as I do’.

Even those who espouse socialism quite forcefully.

I shall refrain from mentioning names, but a number are prominent and have served in the Shadow Cabinet. This is rank hypocrisy.

Others of course are fortunate enough to live in the wealthier part of town and can send their children to the high performing comprehensive in their trendy suburb.

I can’t see many politicians being happy to send their children to some of the schools where many parents are forced to send theirs.

Grammar schools in the past have been an incredible means of social mobility in many spheres, from academic excellence to politics, sport, and entertainment.

There is a very uneven spread of grammar schools across the country, and this puts unnecessary pressure on the system.

It is doing the same thing as many high performing comprehensives do – forcing up house prices in the areas where their catchment operates.

It has also fuelled the desire for tuition, and this again is a matter of affordability.

If there were a plethora of schools spread across the country, it would ease this pressure.

Not every parent wants their child to go to a grammar school so the tests in these areas would be optional anyway.

So, I welcome Jonathan Gullis’s intervention and note with approval that Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative’s 1922 committee, is also backing his colleague’s move.

Come on, Nadhim Zahawi, Education Secretary, remove the unfair shackles and give everyone a chance.