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May's grammar school inequality exposed
Corbyn pledges council powers to build schools and take over academies
- Nationalise the whole school system
- Expand funding and curriculum
- Scrap grammar schools
James Kerr, teacher and NUT activist
Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to give powers to councils to build schools and take over academies. This is a very good start, much needed to undo the dismantling of state education.
To save state education, he will need to go further and declare he will renationalise the entire system. This alone can enable provision to be properly and democratically planned to serve the needs of all students. It must also mean expanding the curriculum on offer.
Corbyn should campaign boldly on his good starting pledge to halt the £3 billion cuts to schools.
On top of this, he will need to kick the privateers out of the classroom. And while stopping the present cuts is important, he needs also to pledge an increase in school funding to bring down class sizes and solve the teacher workload crisis.
While the question of funding dominates the minds of heads, teachers, students and parents in the general election, the Tories' grammar school policy has also been put under the microscope. Once again it proves to be a policy which discriminates against children from poorer backgrounds.
Theresa May and Education Secretary Justine Greening have argued that grammar schools can be a vehicle for social mobility. Yet a recent survey of Kent grammars by Education Datalab showed only 12% of students eligible for free school meals passed the 11-plus selection exam, compared with 30% of their better-off counterparts.
The exam boards have also conceded that the 11-plus can never be 'tutor-proof', enabling families to pay to prepare their children for the test.
Any form of selection inevitably creates losers and disrupts the landscape of educational provision for all students. It also flies in the face of years of educational advances, and a recognition by much of the profession that mixed-ability teaching in a comprehensive setting benefits all students, if properly funded.
However, this policy is not about serving the interests of the many, it is a policy born of austerity. With huge cuts to all schools, this is an attempt to appeal to a section of society on the basis that selection will insulate the chosen few from the worst effects of budget reductions.
This outlook already has headteachers writing an open letter to Theresa May warning her of the dangers of cuts, which could even see a reduction in the school week.
An audacious programme for schools would inspire not only current voters, but a whole generation of young people who have a future worth fighting for.
In The Socialist 10 May 2017:
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