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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 August 2016

No to new grammars

Grammar schools are socially exclusive and disadvantage kids from poorer families, photo by Teo Sze Lee (Creative Commons)

Grammar schools are socially exclusive and disadvantage kids from poorer families, photo by Teo Sze Lee (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

A secondary school teacher, Birmingham

Theresa May has announced she wants to lift the ban on selective secondary schools, a measure she states will increase social mobility. This claim could not be further from the truth.

Figures from Buckinghamshire, where all pupils are entered for the 11+ grammar school entry exam, show pupils are two and a half times more likely to pass if they went to a private school. The pass rate for pupils claiming free school meals is one eighth of the average.

Far from improving social mobility, reintroducing grammar schools will reinforce the disadvantages faced by children from poorer backgrounds. Resources will go to selective secondaries at the expense of comprehensives, instead of funding high-quality, well-rounded education for all.

Attacks

The Tories' attacks on education have shown they have no interest in improving the lives of the working class. The government has already removed the accountability of schools through academies and free schools, leading to employing unqualified teachers, bypassing nationally agreed pay and conditions, and cutting vital support staff.

As a trainee teacher, I have witnessed the difficulties teachers face, including the pressures of forced academisation, high workload and having to prepare pupils for increasingly exhausting exams. The true cost of the Conservatives' drive to marketise education was recently revealed by Channel 4's 'Dispatches' and the Observer. They exposed academy headteachers abusing public money by claiming lavish expenses.

Grammar schools, academies, private schools and free schools only further inequality and unaccountability. Instead of grammar schools, we need properly funded and staffed comprehensive schools which do not decide pupils' futures at the age of eleven.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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