EMMA LEWELL-BUCK: Grammar schools belong in history

Students sitting exams.
Students sitting exams.

In 1998 the Labour Party banned selective education, no child’s access to education should be predicated on their parent’s wealth.

But now our new ‘one nation’ Prime Minister has said that she is going to bring back grammar schools. This seems to be at odds with everything she has said previously about not wanting to have a society for the privileged few.

Selective education works well for the privileged few but not for the rest, my own Granddad was exceptionally intelligent but was unable to go to the local grammar school because the family couldn’t afford the uniform, he was denied a place based on income not ability.

Many children such as my own parents’ futures were marked out at an early age because of their class, again not their ability.

Education can be a huge driver for social mobility if it is equally accessible to all, the Tory myth that grammar schools and selection are a tool for social mobility needs to be challenged at every opportunity as it was a process that was damaging to too many young people and served to entrench inequalities. Grammar schools take relatively few children from poor backgrounds, therefore it is the children of the advantaged who are successful in the selection process.

This can be borne out by the Sutton Trust’s research into social mobility which shows that less than 3% of grammar school entrants are entitled to free school meals, compared to 18% in other schools operating in those areas where grammar schools exist.

The single biggest predictor of how a child will do at the age of 16 is the educational qualifications of their parents.

That stark fact ought to dominate education discussion in England, and any Secretary of State for Education should therefore have it as their priority to ensure that every child can succeed regardless of background.

There are still huge gaps between the poorest and richest children which begin from the moment of birth and increase through early years and primary education.

The Government should work tirelessly to improve every school in the country and not hark back to this mythical golden age of grammar schools. It must work with teachers to drive up standards and to give schools the investment they need to give our children the best start possible in life.

Any new generation of grammar schools will only help a very small number of the richest children whilst the needs of millions of less advantaged children will be ignored.

This Government has spent endless amounts of money and time so far on tinkering with school structures, instead of addressing the crisis in school places, teacher shortages and funding cuts.

Inequality has continued to rise under this Government in all spheres, Theresa May’s plans for education will only create a bigger chasm between the have and have nots, but then I fear that is her intention.

Grammar schools are a thing of history, they have no place in modern society. There must be no going back.