Grammar Schools

A few years ago Finland overhauled the education in their country, they decided to ban private schools, to have a uniform system of state schools, a common curriculum for each subject and national examinations. By banning private schools they ensured that people with power and influence in the community used their influence to ensure that the schools were achieving a good standard of education. The net result of these changes was that Finland was deemed to have among the best educated children in the world, actually being rated the best in one year.
One might think, in view of the evidence, that a government genuinely wanting to have the best education for all their children, would learn from Finland’s experience. Theresa May insists that she wants to have an education system that ensure every child has the best education possible and yet her government has pursued a path in exactly the opposite direction to that which the Finns found so successful. Rather than having one good state system of education we have a complete mish mash of public schools, independent schools, council schools, academies, grammar schools and free schools, the latter may be religious schools, ethnic schools, community schools or goodness knows what schools. The budget this year provided an extra £200M specifically for more free schools and grammar schools. These new schools are not necessarily to be built in areas where the need for new schools is greatest and one must question whether this £200M is being spent in the best way when so many schools in the country are crying out for more help financially.
A recent study by University College London together with Bristol and Warwick universities concluded that a child from an affluent family was four times more likely to get a grammar school place than a child from a ‘just about managing’ family. Children from affluent families can have the advantage of having attended a private prep school or had private tuition to help them with the 11plus assessment. All this demonstrates the lie behind the Tory claim that grammar schools give the opportunity for the bright child to achieve their best potential.
Despite the honeyed words from Theresa May’s lips it seems that their real intention, with these new free schools and grammar schools, is to ensure that middle class children from affluent families have the best opportunity to go to a better state funded school.
Ron Watts

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