New year – new grammar school resolution?

New year – new grammar school resolution?

We have just entered 2019 and the debate about grammar schools shows no sign of abating.

Since Theresa May looked into overturning the ban on new grammar schools there has been much hand wringing from critics who claim they do not help poorer children. Their arguments are often based on the very small number of children entitled to free school meals.

In reality, grammar schools have for generations helped those from not very privileged backgrounds go to top universities, get to the top professionally and even become prime ministers.

Now, at last, an independent report has confirmed what I have long been saying. One of the best ways to get academically bright children from poorer backgrounds to reach their potential is to get them to a grammar school. This will only be achievable when we open a new grammar school in every town.

In a report published by the Higher Education Policy Institute, former senior civil servant Iain Mansfield compiled data showing how grammar schools benefit disadvantaged children and help them get into top universities – with 45% of pupils coming from homes with below-average incomes.

He added that grammars were particularly helping ethnic minority children get into the top universities, with England’s 163 grammars sending more to Cambridge than all 1,849 non-selective schools combined.

And a state school pupil from the most disadvantaged fifth of the population is more than twice as likely to progress to Oxbridge if they live in a selective area.

This report looked into the cohort that goes to grammar schools far more thoroughly than the critics who just look at free school meals and represents a truer reflection of the social backgrounds of pupils.

Elitism is not wrong – we need to counter this argument. Those who are academically able should have the same opportunities regardless of their economic circumstances. We owe that to the younger generation.

‘Selection’ and ‘two-tier’ are words often bandied about which makes grammar schools sound unfair to those who do not get in.

To counter that we need an education system that caters for everyone.

It’s true not all of us can be academic and there has been too much emphasis on getting academic qualifications.

We need an education system where everyone is encouraged to be the elite in their chosen field – whether that be academically, in the arts or in the technical world.

My vision is to not only see a grammar school open in every town but also more specialist schools that cater to the arts and industry.

I’m hoping that once we get past Brexit the government can concentrate on domestic issues, including taking a more radical view of education.