POLL: Do you support plans to expand the number of grammar schools?

Theresa May is facing a powerful new cross-party campaign to derail her flagship education reform programme to expand the number of grammar schools in England - but what do you think?

Conservative former education secretary Nicky Morgan has joined forces with Liberal Democrat former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and Labour ex-shadow education minister Lucy Powell to oppose the plan.

In a joint article in The Observer, they argue that creating new grammar schools will do nothing to promote social mobility and warn there is no room for more "division or political ideology" in the education system.

"We must rise to the challenge with a new national mission to boost education and social mobility for all," they write.

"That's why we are putting aside what we disagree on, to come together and to build a cross-party consensus in favour of what works for our children not what sounds good to politicians."

Their intervention is likely to set alarm bells ringing in Downing Street after other influential Conservatives, including the chairman of the Commons Education Committee Neil Carmichael, also voiced opposition to the plan.

With a working majority of just 17, Mrs May's vulnerability to Tory revolts was underlined last week when Chancellor Philip Hammond was humiliatingly forced to back down over his Budget reforms to National Insurance following a backlash from the backbenches.

In their article, the three say that an "endless debate" about more selection in the education system simply risked squeezing out positive developments that were taking place elsewhere.

"Those championing selection as the silver bullet for tackling social mobility, or as the panacea for creating good new school places, are misguided," they said.

"All the evidence is clear that grammar schools damage social mobility.

"Whilst they can boost attainment for the already highly gifted, they do nothing for the majority of children, who do not attend them. Indeed, in highly selective areas, children not in grammars do worse than their peers in non-selective areas.

"In a time when resources are so limited and many other educational reforms are still in their infancy or yet to be proven - from University Technical Colleges and new T-levels to the expansion of free childcare and hundreds of new free schools - now is not the time for more division or political ideology in education."

Speaking to journalists at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, former education secretary Michael Gove said: "I thought Nicky was a great education secretary and I think hers is a voice always worth listening to in the debate.

"But I take a slightly different position.

"My position is that I'm going to wait to see what the government brings forward but I think that the thing to do for someone like me is to say there's no merit in looking at this, or I won't look at this I should say, through any prism other than looking at what's proposed, looking at the evidence and considering each proposal on its merits."

He later said he supported extension of selection when they created specialist maths schools, which teach post-16 students.

"So, I can't say I'm against selection per se, I just think you need to look at each individual proposition as it's put forward," Mr Gove added.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Comments for: "POLL: Do you support plans to expand the number of grammar schools?"

charlie17

Good at maths, English, the sciences plus other subjects then a grammar school is ideal rather than having them bored or disruptive in a class of mixed abilities. Not outstanding at any subject then teach them to be car mechanics, bricklayers, plumbers, CNC operators plus other trades and vocations to enable them to walk into an apprenticeship or relevant further education at the age of 16. The Comprehensive system has failed we are no where near to places like Singapore in education and this has to change.

Pandapower

The practical kids are outstanding at stuff the academics haven't got a clue about.

they are just as intelligent but in different ways, which in many schools leads them to be treated as second class.

Maybe if Wednesfield Grammar and March End had been left alone instead of being amalgamated into Wednesfield High they would not be in the mess it is in now it has been turned into an academy.

Sigmund Fried

There is no evidence to support the view that Grammar schools benefit society as a whole. They do not improve social mobility. They allow a richer/privileged section to access relatively few places by being able to buy into catchment areas and to pay for tutors and additional extra-curricular opportunities. Let's be clear. Grammar schools choose students, not the other way round, so the idea that this extends parental choice is a myth. At a time when we are seeing per capita spending on education falling - to the point where we will see teacher redundancies and a general curtailing of sports and arts opportunities - it would be insane to spend millions on such a vanity project.

Interested Observer

I was brought up on a council estate and there is no doubt in my mind that a grammar school education was of great benefit in aiding my upward social mobility.

Pandapower

I wasn't rich or privileged and I went to grammar school

Sigmund Fried

I'm not denying that some people from working class backgrounds have benefitted from a Grammar School education but this is more likely to be a few years ago (before tuition, etc) - a time, incidentally, when the average Grammar would have received a performance judgement well below the current comprehensive school. I'm genuinely pleased for these people but what about those with similar potential who have the knock-back of being branded a failure at the tender age of 11. Academic selection is not supported by the vast majority of educators. It is a distraction, a political manoeuvre designed to reinforce advantage, it is divisive and belongs in the past.

Mountain Wolf

I would be extremely interested in seeing the performance judgement which would put the average grammar school 'well below the current comprehensive school'. This is a genuine curiosity so please supply the details of where this data and its sources can be located. Many thanks.

Sigmund Fried

Mountain Wolf - It is some years since I did my reading on this but if you have the time and inclination then there are several reports from the 50s, 60s and 70s which will provide you with figures galore about selection and working class attainment, etc - Gurney-Dixon, Crowther, Robbins, Newsom. I also have much anecdotal evidence from friends and family about some of the aspects of Grammar School performance in the so-called, 'Golden Age'. My point was really that if you applied current Ofsted criteria to Grammar Schools of 40 or 50 years ago, then many would fail on areas such as teaching, attainment and safeguarding. If you want a more up to date assessment then Local Schools Network or Comprehensive Future may provide what you are looking for.

Mountain Wolf

Thanks for the information which I shall explore as soon as time allows. Sorry for the late reply but the system would not allow me to log on during the later part of the day.

markie

I benefited from a grammar school education, and in those days, it, without doubt, aided social mobility.

For it to be successful this time round, it is essential that coaching should not be able to influence selection. When I took the 11+ in the 1950's coaching was not an issue, so people from working class backgrounds had an equal chance of being selected. That is the way it needs to be this time.

Of course there is no evidence to support the view that Grammar schools benefit society as a whole, this is something that is almost impossible to prove, but from my own experience it does increase the level of expectation for selected pupils, which is a very important factor in improving individual success.

Cyril

I was lucky enough to pass for West Bromwich Grammar School back in 1942 and although it wasn't easy as money had to be found for books back then, plus uniforms, football boots, etc., (if you had the coupons too as it was Wartime), it gave me a head start I would not have had otherwise. We're not all built for manual work, I certainly wasn't as I simply turned sideways and vanished being so skinny. It is always a wise move to up the education levels of the kids who can take it and they won't get held back by those who don't want it at any price. It's our very diversity that makes us interesting.

Shewolf1943

I too benefitted from a grammar school education, King Edwards Handsworth. There are some children who are academically minded, and some have better manual skills. Therefore why should clever children be held back, and also why should children who are more adept at manual creativity feel inadequate. I support grammar schools as we all have our different attributes and should go to schools which accommodate our needs.

Sigmund Fried

Shewolf- I respect your view but I'm not sure why you think that 'clever children' are somehow held back if they don't attend a Grammar School. There are plenty examples of young people who have attended our top universities and progressed to very good jobs without the experience of 11+ selection. Surely it is about raising standards and extending opportunities in all schools?

Shewolf1943

Yes, perhaps held back was probably wrong to say. I just think it is better for children to be in an environment which suits them best. No slur intended on other schools.

MrW

I think the introduction of Grammar Schools is a start, this should be followed by the reintroduction of qualifications/exam boards suited to the different skill sets each child possesses via O Level exams, 16+ exams and/or Diplomas. This would mean the abolition of the GCSE which has slowly been dumb-downed and is not fit for purpose as 'one size doesn't fit all' with actual learning replaced by indoctrinated facts and figures to pass exams, which in turn, provides no real skills when entering the workplace.

The whole educational system needs to be addressed, not just increasing Grammar Schools but looking to provide a vocational education based on individuals strengths. Thus, encouraging self-worth rather than focusing on shortcomings in particular mainstream subjects which have a negative effect overall.

Encouraging individuals at what they're good at increases self-esteem and hard work, continually telling individuals they're lacking in certain skill sets only increases further negativity and lack of motivation.

Maybe I'm being too hopeful, but it would be better for everyone if all children were educated to their strengths as an individual not a collective.

A Lone Voice

I spent all of my working life in the education sector and support the rationale behind the concept of comprehensive education 100% where all pupils are given the same opportunities to grow and develop as they progress through their school lives and on to adulthood and their working lives.

All children have different aptitudes and abilities that need to be nurtured and developed in a supportive and challenging school environment. No child should be treated less favorably than any other and the system should ensure they are not disadvantaged.

However, back in the real world, my experiences of visiting many schools highlighted to me that so many lessons are essentially a time wasting exercise ruined for the majority of average and above average children by the actions of a minority of pupils who are essentially uninterested, unteachable and downright disruptive in a teaching environment. This to the detriment of other pupils who may wish to learn. In fact, I am amazed that pupils perform as well as they given the hurdles they have to overcome!

The future of the UK depends on a well educated and aspirational workforce which the current system does not provide. However much certain views on equality may sit well with the "chattering classes" the fact remains that not all people are equal in abilities or outlook.

One might argue that some pupils maybe develop in an environment outside of the education sector if they were able to leave school with a modicum of skills at the age of 14 rather than being forced to endure many more years of fruitless endeavors by remaining at school and disrupting the chances of others whilst they are there.

I remember many years ago when housing policy suggested that if you wished to improve the quality of your less desirable tenants it seemed a good plan to move them into what you might call "nicer" areas and the more desirable attributes of your "better" tenants would encourage an uplift of standards. Well, that didn't work terribly well and all of your "better" tenants essentially left as soon as they could! The same pitfalls and results are apparent in education too.

So lets move away from this one size fits all education policy and dogma and progress to a system that works for all ability pupils.......if that means some more academically minded pupils are siphoned off to grammar schools and others leave earlier then so be it.

And just to finish I have to state that I failed my 11 plus exam and attended a secondary modern school.

Nemo

A lot of people on here saying that they benefitted from attending a Grammar School. I've no doubt that was the case. I would, however, like to hear from those who weren't selected for a grammar school. Prior to comprehensive education we were supposed to have Grammar, Technical and Secondary Modern schools. The Technical schools should have met some of the requirements stated here for skills based education but hardly any were built. The Grammar Schools sucked up all of the resources (which is why their pupils were better off) and those that attended Secondary Modern were left to make the best of what was left.

Margaret Hamilton

If they are going to bring back grammar schools at least close all the private ones down.

markie

If we closed all the private schools down there would be huge financial pressures on the state school system.

Pablo

I think there would be a financial cost to abolishing private schools but this would be far outweighed by gains to the economy and society. Owners/trustees would require compensation and there would be a tax loss but surplus land and building stock - much of it in prime locations - could be sold, facilities could be shared with, and paid for, by local communities and best of all, the talent which is currently wasted because we tend to reward privilege instead would be better utilised to improve our productivity. One of the leading educators in the world, Finland, abolished private education over 30 years ago.

markie

I think you will find, Pablo, that most public schools do not own the buildings or land where the school is sited. A lot of the older ones are owned by the Church of England, some are owned by charities that lease to the schools.

What you would probably end up with is loads of privately educated kids trying to get state education at a cost to the state, creating an overload in some areas.

The country would lose an extremely valuable export with all of the foreign students no linger paying for education in this country. In addition many British parents who work abroad would no longer be able to educate their children in this country. The diplomatic service pay for the education of children whose parent(s) are posted in embassies all over the world.

LordToffinghamOfTettenhall

Two problems:

1. Is there anyone left in the teaching profession who knows how to run a grammar school? Its all well and good saying "Here's a grammar school, aren't we great!?", but staff, curriculum, and funding will all be taken from the same pool as the mainstream system.

2. The grammar system was relevant to the times and the economic/employment landscape in which it existed. Grammar school was meant for those who would generally go on to university, and/or professional and such occupations, and secondary school was for the rest, who would generally go on to manual or menial jobs. That system doesn't fit any more, with 50% of pupils going to higher or further education, and a decimated manufacturing sector, decimated primary industries, and automation or outsourcing of lower end jobs.

If the education system is to be reformed (which it should), then reform it to suit the current reality, not the rose tinted view of the 'good old days'