On Saturday, November 26, a small group of representatives from the High Peak Labour Party went to Andrew Bingham’s Hayfield surgery to express our opposition to Theresa May’s proposed expansion of grammar schools and to present him with a petition voicing the same opposition signed by over 500 of his constituents.
In many people’s view the expansion of grammar schools would return us to a system of selection and rejection at 11-years-old and it would inevitably create two groups: those who ‘passed’ and went on to get the best education, and those who ‘failed’ and were left to make do with whatever the fractured system was able to provide.
This is not good education, nor is it good social policy. It is divisive and elitist, and takes us in the opposite direction from that of a ‘one nation’ approach.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools and head of Ofsted, has observed:-
‘…more grammar schools will reduce standards for the great majority of children, undo much of the progress of recent years, and be socially divisive.’
He points out that the idea of education is to raise standards for all children, but by their very nature grammar schools are for the few. By having them we are clearly looking to provide a top-class education only to those chosen few. If we take the academically bright children away from the comprehensive system we automatically create secondary modern schools.
Once this division has been established the grammar schools will receive the best resources and the most money and will pay higher salaries and thereby recruit the best teachers. The social class divisions will have been cemented into place.
These views, as well as those addressing the geographical issues of a rural constituency like the High Peak, were reflected by many of the constituents I spoke to at a recent street stall. There was a certain amount of complacency in the responses of some more senior citizens, along the lines of ‘I went to grammar school, and it never did me any harm’. Well, no, grammar schools don’t always harm the 25 per cent of pupils who manage to get into them. They do, however, an immeasurable amount of harm to the other 75 per cent.
Imagine the response of the public if May’s mantra had been to reintroduce secondary modern schools. A new secondary modern in every town? Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
Grammar school expansion is a bad idea and must be abandoned. It benefits the few and disadvantages the many. It artificially separates society into a group of elites and also-rans.
Andrew has said that he has an open mind on this topic and can see the arguments on both sides. Perhaps a few more of his constituents can help him to make up his mind.