If anyone was in any doubt about the backward reactionary ideas at the top of the Tory Party, then today's unintended confirmation that they plan to go back to 11-plus selection confirms it. Even Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has called it 'tosh and nonsense', correctly pointing out that a “grammar school in every town” would also mean "three secondary moderns in every town".
It would mean writing off most young people as failures at the age of 11. Of course, if you are planning for a future where most youth have no future, and an austerity Britain where budgets are slashed so that decent schooling is provided only for a select few, then the policy makes perfect sense.
It's worth looking back to what was said back in the 1960s when society was looking forward to a better future, instead of backwards like today's Conservatives:
"If we are to help all children effectively, we certainly must assess their various qualities, measure and appraise them. Tests of various kinds are valuable and necessary for this purpose. Indeed, we need more guidance which is scientifically informed. But such information must be used to advance the progress of all children on a broad and varied front: the open road to personal fulfilment. Instead, we are today using it as a regulator, a turnstile through which people are allowed to pass only in single file on production of standardized credentials".
Robin Pedley, the Comprehensive School 1963
It's also worth reminding everyone that comprehensive education was an undoubted success in widening educational achievement for all:
As Terry Wrigley summarises: "Those who believe that standards of education were higher in some previous Golden Age should look at the examination statistics. In 1972, 43% left school with no qualifications at all. Now it is less than 1%. Some argue that this means that the exams have become easier to pass; but it is hard to deny that the education of the 42%, who under the old system achieved no qualifications and now get some, has improved. In 1960, in a divided system, only 20% went to grammar school. The rest were more or less written off. In fact only 16% of sixteen year olds achieved five O-level passes. In 2011 53% of pupils in the state sector achieved five or more GCSE A*-C grades including English and maths. Including ‘equivalents’ to GCSE (see below) it was 59%".
Here's today's National NUT press release:
Commenting on the Department for Education’s advice note which was photographed today outside Number 10, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Theresa May said on the steps of Downing Street that she wanted ‘a country that works for everyone’. Yet now we hear of proposals to take education back to the 1950s, when children were segregated at age 11 and their life chances determined by the type of school they attended.
“Opening new grammar schools would not only be a backward step but is also a complete distraction from the real problems facing schools and education. For every grammar school there are three or four ‘secondary modern’ schools. All the evidence makes clear that segregating children in this way leads to lower academic standards. The argument that grammar schools create ‘social mobility’ are, in the words of the Ofsted Chief Inspector, ‘tosh and nonsense’. Evidence shows that in areas which retain grammar schools, disadvantaged students – who are eligible for FSM or who live in poor neighbourhoods – are much less likely to be enrolled, even if they score highly on Key Stage 2 tests.
“There is an opportunity with a new Prime Minister and a new Secretary of State to put education back on the right track. This means addressing the real challenges facing schools such as the funding crisis, teacher recruitment and retention problems, the chaos surrounding primary assessment and the fragmentation in the schools system. We need more coherence, not yet another layer of education provision in England.”
Thanks to @pollydonnison for the cartoon: