Grammar Schools – Brief History of Education Since 1997
Education Education Education! That famous phrase uttered many times by Tony Blair during the 1997 election campaign. He promised to properly fund schools and cut class sizes as well as many other things. One of those promises was to stop any new Grammar schools being created. Labour claimed that selective education harms social mobility and that children would learn far better when they are all together. However, what happened was that social mobility became even more constrained due to students just attending their local schools. In poorer areas that meant students in low income families may never be in the same class as children in medium/higher income families.
Labour then pushed for ‘Academies’ to replace failing schools. Those schools saw a huge cash injection and usually a new building. This status ushered in the privatisation of schools by the back door. Academy chains called ‘Trusts’ took over many schools to improve their results. The Trusts were given substantive sums of money to do this and were not accountable to the Local authority. Trusts are also never visited by Ofsted. The Academies themselves continued to be visited by Ofsted as normal. This created the educational elites who were untouchable to the electorate, unlike LA run schools who had a councillor with the education portfolio. Academies also had a different set of admissions policies and would often ‘cherry pick’ students based on their pre-determined factors. The Trusts effectively become their own Admissions Authority.
Fast forward to 2010 and the Tory led coalition government. We saw some of the good that Labour did undone. Class sizes have increased and funding was frozen which over the course of the years has led to an effective real term cut. They pushed the Academy program more as to further privatise the system, handing millions of pounds more to Academy trust executives, many of whom where on substantive six figure salaries. You would assume that such expensive trusts would improve the education for their student as after all, that’s what education is all about? Well, you would be wrong. Success is hit and miss and now LA run schools are on average out performing academies. Thank god for the Tory climb down over “Every school to become can Academy by 2020”.
Now where does Grammar schools play into this? Sorry to waffle but I feel a very brief history of the education system helps understand the situation. Under a good Grammar school plan, every student will get access to a grammar school if they passed their 11+ exams in primary school. This means it doesn’t matter what your background is, you get the same opportunities. Grammar schools would then have to meet a target for Free School meals students to ensure they are offering school places to those with low income families as well and are unable to have only students from wealthier backgrounds. Grammar schools would then provide a much higher standard of education to really push the student’s young minds.
Higher ability kids in current mainstream schools are often put in class sizes of over 30+ kids and the teacher will undoubtable struggle to differentiate the lesson enough for both the super high ability and the lower ability students. This means that neither students are getting the best education for them. If the higher ability kids were put together and really challenged, then it would leave the middle/low ability kids to receive a more targeted education that will allow them to also progress better. Mainstream school funding should not be cut to fund grammar schools. Grammar school funding should be an additional spend.
In summary. Labour’s opposition to Grammar schools is based on an outdated ideology that Grammar schools are for the rich kids and the education of mainstream kids will suffer. I hope I have demonstrated how this is absolute rubbish and Grammar schools will increase social mobility and the life chances of not only the very brightest in our society but every single student, regardless of their background.