Education is becoming a postcode lottery

Education is becoming a postcode lottery

When selective education was scrapped in the 1960s in favour of the ‘fairer’ comprehensive system many believed we were entering a brave new world, where everyone could learn on an equal footing.

Fast forward 50 years and the stark reality is that the very people comprehensives were supposed to help are the ones that are being failed by them. 

New research has revealed that pupils living in some of the UK’s poorest postcodes are far more likely to attend an underperforming school compared to better-off children.

And the gap is widening.

In just three short years, an extra 30,000 poorer children are going to a school rated less than good as compared to May 2016.

Meanwhile, the richest children are more likely to attend an outstanding one – with nearly half (44%) attending a top-rated school.

But more than a third (35%) of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds attend a school rated as inadequate or requires improvement.

When it comes to the wealthiest postcodes only 8% of pupils attend a school rated as less than good, a figure which has remained unchanged over the past three years.

This is frankly scandalous and there is nothing fair in this education system at all.

People have often focused on selective schooling as being pernicious and divisive but the issue of postcodes is far more problematic as it is literally schooling by wealth alone.

Only those with the biggest bank balances can afford to live in leafy suburbs with great comprehensives. This situation reinforces social class and prevents social mobility.

Grammar school selection is not perfect but fairer in that ability and achievement play an important part. We can at least say that merit has some influence rather than just how much someone earns.

If more grammar schools were allowed to be built and placed in poorer areas this would greatly benefit those populations and help with social mobility.

I have also long argued that you also need another type of specialist schools to complement grammars and meet the needs of young people who might not be academically gifted but have just as important talents in other areas.

For this country to succeed we need to encourage and nurture all our young people to reach the very best of their potential – whether that be academically, in the arts, in manufacturing and technology, creative industries or sport.

The experiment of the one-size-fits-all education system has failed.