Wednesday, May 16, 2007
'Tin Hat' at the ready over Grammar Schools announcement.
I am preparing myself for serious flak over David Willets contentious announcment this afternoon that a Conservative Government would not permit the opening of any new grammar schools.
This is a very difficult issue for me, as I am the product of a Grammar school and one of my daughters is currently benefitting from a Grammar School education.
In a survey I conducted in 2004 over 80% of local residents say that the want to retain our Grammar Schools. So I am expecting howls of protest from many quarters over this proposal to back the City Academies initiative and dump our previous long-held promise of re-introducing the 11 plus.
I agree that turning the clock back to the old days of grammar schools is , frankly, a no-no. The well documented problems of selecting pupils on a fairly narrow band of ability aged 11 is a historical debate we lost long ago and I see no point in trying to turn back after such a long time.
What David Willets says is this:
"We must break free from the belief that academic selection is any longer the way to transform the life chances of bright poor kids. This is a widespread belief but we just have to recognise that there is overwhelming evidence that such academic selection entrenches advantage, it does not spread it."
"For those children from modest backgrounds who do get to grammar schools the benefits are enormous. And we will not get rid of those grammar schools that remain. But the trouble is that the chances of a child from a poor background getting to a grammar school in those parts of the country where they do survive are shockingly low.
"A Conservative agenda for education will not be about just helping a minority of pupils escape a bad education. We want better schools for all, based on fair admission and fair funding. That is why we are outlining a series of specific measures for driving up standards and expanding the Academies programme begun by Tony Blair."
Directly funded schools is an idea I have always liked, whether they are called 'grant maintained' as they were under John Major or 'City Academies' as they are under Tony Blair.