Ditch grammar schools?

The return of selective education causes division

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Grammar schools: opportunity maker or vanity project?

During his 2017 Budget in March, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £320 million funding for free schools which will "enable the creation of new academically selective free schools".

Academically selective free schools is another way of describing the return of grammar schools.

Grammar schools are state secondary schools that select their pupils through an examination taken by 11-year-olds, known as the 11-plus.

Out of 3,000 state secondaries across England, there are only 163 grammar schools - and a further 69 grammars in Northern Ireland. There are no selective schools in Wales and Scotland.

According to the BBC, selective education started to be seen as reinforcing class division and middle-class privilege during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1965, the Labour government under Harold Wilson's leadership ordered local education authorities to start phasing out grammar schools - replacing them with the comprehensive system. In 1998, Labour's School Standards and Framework Act forbade the creation of any new selective schools.

The Tories claim new grammar schools will give pupils from 'ordinary working families' the opportunity to attend an outstanding school - with only 21 per cent of lower income children currently having access to a better education (compared to a quarter of those from families above the average income).

Education Secretary Justine Greening said: "Grammars do work for other groups in our society, not just the wealthy.

"The new schools we will create will support young people from every background, not the privileged few.

"Young people on free school meals, those eligible for the pupil premium, young people from ordinary working families that are struggling to get by, I want these new schools to work for everyone.

"This will be a new model of grammars, truly open to all, we will insist on that, and it will reflect the choices of local parents and communities."

The Guardian calls the grammar schools plan "Theresa May's vanity project". They argue that there is no better way of depressing the prospects of 11-year-old children at such an early age.

The Prime Minister has also faces a cross-party alliance in opposition to their expansion. Former education secretary Nicky Morgan (Conservative), former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (Lib Dem) and ex-shadow education minister Lucy Powell (Labour) have all argued that the schools will not promote social mobility and create division in the education system.

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