The Grammar School Revolution begins

Will new grammar schools help improve social mobility?

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As the Government attempts to ensure that the news isn’t overwhelmed by Brexit, there seems to be a great deal of focus going into the ancient grammar school system.

Theresa May seems to have adopted a favourable view towards this topic. She has decided to enable all schools the chance to convert into then. The Prime Minister is spearheading a new Grammar School Revolution, with the selection-style system having not been in fashion for over 40 years. By allowing grammar schools to open and potentially expand, we will present new opportunities for poor and smart children, who are often held back by comprehensive schooling. Let the Revolution commence!

The first ever grammar school opened up its doors in 597 AD in Canterbury. This selection-style of education was hegemonic in the UK right up until 1944, when a tripartite system was introduced. With this radical change came the new ’11-plus’ test, which meant that children from this age would take a test determining if they could achieve a place within a grammar school. This test remains controversial today, with many feeling it is wrong that a child’s academic future is decided from then on.

By 1975, most grammars were forced to convert into comprehensive schools or transform into a fee-paying school. Ever since, they have been out of fashion. Successive governments have rejected the notion that grammar schools are progressive for social mobility, with David Cameron saying hearsay of more of these schools is ‘outdated mantra.’

Today, only 164 grammar schools remain in England. This means over-subscription is a significant problem for the remaining schools. By ensuring there are more grammars opened, we can reverse the detrimental effects of the previous 50 years and induce a social mobility revolution.

Throughout the long history of these schools, there has been one overarching argument; do they improve social mobility or not? Currently, it can be strongly argued that they don’t. Only 3% of pupils receive free school meals, compared to 18% in non-grammar schools. Furthermore, around 13% of grammar school pupils attended private school previously, indicating that they favour richer middle class pupils compared to poorer working class children.

However, it has been revealed that Mrs May wishes to intervene by introducing a few regulations into the new schools, ensuring they are a real vehicle for social mobility. They will be required to have a certain percentage of children coming from a low-income family, as well as more grammars opening in deprived areas. This will allow poorer, academic children to have access to a higher level of education, where they can strive for success and prosper in a more adequate learning environment.

By understanding that a ‘one-size fits all’ education system simply doesn’t work, our country can move forward and help create a new social mobility revolution.It appears Mrs May’s decision to allow new grammar schools to open may characterise her first term as Prime Minister. By introducing a few tweaks to maximise social mobility, she is emboldening her one-nation message and ensuring poor children have access to a world-class education.

Currently, UK comprehensive schools are run-down and poorly functioning, robbing poor children of the opportunity of an outstanding education and a decent quality of life. Although opponents claim the Government should focus on ‘making all schools good’, this is simply not affordable or manageable. There needs to be a long-lasting and realistic solution to our educational problems, which helps maximise social mobility and life chances for poorer children. Grammar schools might just be that solution.

As a comprehensive student, I fully back the expansion of grammar schools. Through various reforms, the Government seem determined on ensuring that this new wave of grammars will be beneficial to social mobility. By presenting children with this opportunity, we are offering hope for those who would have otherwise potentially have been left on the social scrapheap. We can’t let them down. We must move forward with the Grammar School Revolution.

4 COMMENTS

  1. And effectively throw all dyslexics (~5% of the population) on the scrap pile? To even consider this idea we would need early schools to better at teaching those with different learning styles (whether that comes with a particular label or not) and have a far fairer testing system that picks up genuine smarts rather than a narrow band of exam skills.

  2. So why is a Conservative from Scotland telling the English the merits of expanding the number of grammar schools in England when his own party leader has explicitly ruled out creating any grammar schools in Scotland?

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