Grammar schools are socially exclusive and disadvantage kids from poorer families, photo Teo Sze Lee (Creative Commons) (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)
James Kerr, Socialist Party teachers organiser
Theresa May’s vow to foster ‘social mobility’ through the creation of new grammar schools will have made the heads of teachers up and down the country spin.
Even Michael Wilshaw, former head of schools inspector Ofsted, described the plans as “tosh and nonsense”. He reminded May, and Education Secretary Justine Greening, that for every grammar school created you get three secondary moderns.
He’s right too. As soon as any element of selection is introduced it has a knock-on effect. Yes there are success stories from the grammar system, but there are plenty of examples of failure. And May ignores the leaps and strides in the quality of teaching within comprehensive schools.
It also flies in the face of the research and growth in understanding in the last few decades about how children develop and learn. Much of that research shows the elasticity of the brain allows for humans’ understanding and intelligence to grow rapidly under the right conditions.
For example, London black cab drivers’ brains physically get bigger when they take ‘The Knowledge’. In other words, a child’s intelligence or talent is not fixed, and shouldn’t be measured at eleven as a guide for where they’ll be in the future.
Instead all children should be exposed to a varied curriculum, surrounded by a broad cross-section of their peers to bounce ideas and skills off each other.
If you want to improve children’s life chances, it’s simple. Fund reduction in class sizes so children can receive the support they need, and create an exciting and varied educational environment for all young people where they’re challenged and inspired on a daily basis.
The Tories seem to view the education unions as an obstacle they can overcome. We need to make sure that’s not the case. Otherwise education will be dragged further back to a system of the haves and have-nots.