I’ve been thinking a lot about grammar schools recently, I went to one, and I have to admit that I'm glad, it was (still is) a nice little school with a supportive ethos. The issue people have with grammar schools is selection, creaming off the ‘top students’ leaving the rest to languish in sub-standard schools. The Tories would have us believe that grammar schools promote social mobility, and, even without the masses of evidence that prove them wrong, it is obvious that this is utter rubbish! For children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, passing the 11+ is next to impossible; lack of suitable study space, poor nutrition, no money for books, lack of computer access etc etc, all impact negatively on academic achievement from a very young age. Of course, this means that these children are far less likely to pass the 11+, leaving (for the most part) grammar schools to the middle classes.
But for me, the issues with grammar schools goes deeper, and is illustrated by the language used to describe them that both shows and shapes societies’ view on success. The labels used when talking about grammar schools reveal a snobbery about academic achievement that blinds us to the real problems in our education system. It is not enough to challenge the creation of new grammar schools, we have to change the conversation completely! A new way of educating our children is sorely needed; we need to recognise and value the incredible range of children's talents and give them the opportunities to grow and learn that our society really needs.
The curriculum has been so narrowed by the unholy triumvirate of Gove, Morgan and Gibb that the arts have all been pushed out of schools. We need an education system that works for all children, that includes the arts, sports, digital technologies, engineering, mechanics, construction, all skills that our society sorely needs. What is the point of pushing academic achievements to the detriment of other skills, when there are very few jobs that require these skills in isolation? The Tories are making children resit their Maths and English GCSEs until they achieve a C or above (or whatever the number grade they decide under the new system that no one understands) regardless of whether this either achievable or necessary. We have an education system stuck in the last century, that does not take advantage of new technologies that would allow children to pursue a educational path tailored to their needs and interests.
Of course, this would take a huge investment, in technology and teachers, but it's an investment in our children, and their futures, and the future of our country. The Tories are focused on cutting real terms investment in education, cutting subjects, cutting support staff, cutting off our noses to spite the face of society. We need a Labour Party who is not only willing to invest in education, but brave enough to overhaul the system completely, otherwise we risk our children being left behind, languishing in our past, longing to improve their future.