Bury Free Press, 13th March 2015
As the government announced this week that they would open 500 free schools if elected next term, the education world erupted. But behind the raucous debate on Gove’s headline institutions, a darker policy lurks. David Cameron on Monday supported the right of good grammar schools to “expand” if there is demand from parents. That means that in areas where grammar schools are still used – particularly in Kent – they will be able to increase the size of their army of academic high-fliers.
You might think it odd then, that under current rules, new grammar schools can’t be opened. For us in comprehensive Suffolk, the idea of a grammar school itself is a relic of the past: the former-grammar school that I attend has been around for almost 500 years. If the government has banned the building of such schools, why would it be happy for them to expand?
It was in the 1960s and 70s that the government made the move from the ‘tripartite’ system to comprehensive education. Now, in the majority of the UK, all students attend non-selective schools. That means there’s no eleven-plus test, no ability apartheid. Everyone gets the same access to education, within schools that are designed for all. So the continued existence of grammar schools – and, more importantly, the expansion of them – piles egg on the face of the very principles of comprehensive education.
It simply doesn’t make sense that there might be comprehensive and non-comprehensive areas of the UK, all funded by the state. In order for the system to work, all students must receive the same. This is the only way education can be equal. David Cameron should get out of education, stop pandering to his Tory voters in Kent and the Ukippers who want a grammar school in every town, and ditch grammar schools altogether.