Grammar schools

Did I destroy my daughter’s prospects?

Every year, thousands of parents face the situation I did in 2014 when I realised that I could no longer afford to educate my ten-year-old daughter privately. At first, I didn’t panic. After all, I lived near some excellent state schools. After queuing for two hours one cold winter Saturday morning for Open Day, we learned that to gain a place at Holland Park you had to live within yards of it, or win a heavily oversubscribed art scholarship, which my daughter attempted — and failed. I still didn’t worry. Why should I have, when 93 per cent of children under 16 in England are educated in state schools? We

Are grammar schools unfair?

Those dread words ‘Grammar schools’ are back in the news again. The education secretary, Damian Hinds, has today announced a new fund that will allow established academically selective schools, i.e. the 163 grammars clustered around the country, to found new ‘satellite’ schools. The proposal could increase pupil numbers at grammar schools by 16,000 over the next four years. The news has been met with the typical mixture of surprise and outrage; amidst the tried-and-tested to-and-fro, it is hard to find much reasoned and sustained argument. Everyone, it seems, knows where they – and everyone else – stand. But, dig a little deeper into the issues at stake, and Hinds is

First class

On the Today programme a month ago, Education Secretary Justine Greening was asked whether she could name any ‘respected figure or institution’ in favour of more grammar schools. She declined to answer, which was taken to mean that she couldn’t, and that there wasn’t. I’ve been travelling a lot this year, so wasn’t around to offer my support. I’m back now. Assuming that a professor of education at a Russell Group university is respectable enough, let me wade into the debate: yes, I’m in favour of more grammar schools. Educational experts against more grammar schools — of which there are plenty — point to the current evidence from England and

Five things we’ve learnt from the Conservative manifesto

Today Theresa May unveiled the 2017 Conservative and Unionist Party manifesto at an event in West Yorkshire. Parking her tanks on Labour’s lawn, the Prime Minister tried to appeal to working class voters as she revealed her vision for ‘a stronger Britain and a prosperous future’. Here’s what can be gleaned from the slimline document: A Conservative government would push back eliminating the deficit until 2026. Once again the party has delayed its target date for balancing the books. May has given herself until the middle of the next decade (so by 2026 at latest) to balance the books. Given that George Osborne promised to do this by 2015, it’s fair to take the latest

Like them or not, Theresa May’s grammar school plans will end the postcode lottery of education

Grammar Schools. Now there’s a potent pair of words. Mention them, and genial conversation will instantly shift into awkward silence or seething torrents of passion. In either case, reasoned argument is in short supply. Yet now that Theresa May seems committed to overturning Labour’s ban on opening new grammar schools, discussion is vital. But instead of rehashing the same arguments in favour of academically selective schools, or raking over the same problems they can cause, it’s important instead to look carefully at the evidence about whether grammar schools really do promote ‘social mobility’. One of the major themes of anti-grammar salvos is that they don’t. And to make this point, the crudest approach is typically

Victory in sight for the free schools revolution

I’m not surprised the Chancellor allocated more money for the free schools policy in the Budget. It’s not an exaggeration to say it’s the most successful education policy of the last 25 years. To begin with, free schools have proved to be a cost-effective way of meeting the need for additional places. This was underlined in the National Audit Office’s recent report on school capital, which said that on a like-for-like basis, they cost 29 per cent less than new schools built under Labour’s ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme. Given that the Department for Education has estimated that we will need 420,000 additional places between 2016 and 2021, it

Letters | 27 October 2016

Bear baiting Sir: I couldn’t agree more with Rod Liddle’s exposé of western politico-militaristic hypocrisy (‘Stop the sabre-rattling’, 22 October). We’ve already poked the Russian bear way too hard — unnecessarily so. What Rod could have also highlighted was that Nato has spread so far eastwards that it’s a blessed surprise the next world war hasn’t already started. It almost did in 1962 when Khrushchev tried to move nuclear missiles into Cuba. The same principle applies to what ‘we’ are doing now — frontline, aggressive technologies, nuclear-implied, established in the old Soviet states of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and even Poland. In Moscow, the memory of 20 million dead Russians and their

Theresa May should ignore the privately-educated elite and press on with her grammar school plans

It has become customary in the great grammar school debate to declare where you went to school. I attended the boys’ grammar school in Canterbury, which was mentioned by Ysenda Maxtone Graham in her piece in this week’s magazine. Ysenda chose not to make such a declaration herself, so I will do it for her: she attended the King’s School, the poshest of the three public schools in Canterbury, which inhabits the precincts of the cathedral. I wouldn’t normally make an issue of someone’s schooling, but it is rather relevant in this case because Ysenda appears to be disturbed by what she sees as the social apartheid between Kent’s grammar

Hope, fights and grammar schools

A typical Kentish town, with its grammar school at one end and its secondary school at the other, is a throwback to the Bad Old Days, or the Good Old Days, depending on what your views are on academically selective state education. If Theresa May’s plans go ahead, the whole country might look something like this. In my childhood home town of Sandwich, Kent, the two schools, Sir Roger Manwood’s grammar school and the Sandwich Technology School, have staggered going-home times to avoid the fights on the station platform that used to happen every afternoon. Their uniforms are tellingly different: the Manwood’s students wear smart blazers and ties, the Tech

Sorry, Shami, but you’re wasting your money

I’ve been thinking about poor Shami Chakrabarti and the drubbing she’s suffered since it was revealed she’s sending her son to Dulwich College. She joins a long line of Labour hypocrites who are opposed to grammar schools but choose to send their own children to selective schools. The list includes Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, Tony Crosland, Polly Toynbee, Diane Abbott, Harriet Harman and Seumus Milne. My issue with these Labour grandees is not so much the double standards, although that does stick in the craw, obviously, but the stupidity. Why risk their political credibility and, for those that go private, beggar themselves, when there’s little reason to suppose that their

Shami Chakrabarti isn’t alone in her selective stance on schooling

The only thing to be said for Shami Chakrabarti’s stance on selective education – she’s against the reintroduction of grammar schools because it’s tantamount to ‘segregation in schooling’ but her own son is going to Dulwich College – is that she’s not alone. Emily Thornberry, shadow foreign secretary, sent two children way outside her constituency to a selective school; Harriet Harman ditto; Diane Abbott’s son went to private school. Yet they’re all against grammars. Frankly it would take less time to point out the Labour bigwig who isn’t hypocritical on this one, viz, Jeremy Corbyn, whose first marriage is said to have foundered, inter alia, on the grammar school question,

Rod Liddle

Shami Chakrabarti joins the ranks of lefty hypocrites

Congratulations to Shami – sorry Baroness! – Chakrabarti for joining the exciting, ever-growing pantheon of ultra-left wing metropolitan Labour hypocrites. Her dameship was appearing on the Godawful Peston on Sunday show. Asked why she opposed selection and grammar schools while at the same time sending her brat to the selective, £18,000 per year, Dulwich College, she said: ‘I live in a nice big house, and eat nice food, and my neighbours are homeless, and go to food banks. Des that make me a hypocrite, or does it make me someone who is trying to do best, not just for my own family, but for other people’s families too?’ Yes, of course

Letters | 6 October 2016

Studying grammars Sir: Isabel Hardman (Politics, 1 October) states that no reputable research backs up the belief that grammar schools promote social justice. I am not sure she is correct. For instance, Lord Franks’s 1966 report on Oxford University recorded an accelerating rise in the share of places taken by state school pupils at that university in the 1939–1966 period. This increased from 19 per cent to 34 per cent, excluding the semi-private direct grant schools. Include the direct grants and the figure rises from 32 per cent in 1939 to 51 per cent in 1965. This change, reversed in the comprehensive years after 1965, coincided with the introduction of

Full text: Education secretary Justine Greening’s conference speech

As a Conservative, when I look at where we’ve had the biggest impact in government, there’s one area that really stands out. And that’s education. Through a lot of hard work, not least from teachers… ….we have come a very, very long way. Thanks to the reforms carried out by Michael Gove and Nicky Morgan… … we’ve seen standards raised and 1.4m more children in good or outstanding schools. In higher education, the global rankings now show our universities right at the very top… ….with record numbers of our young people applying. Crucially, over the last six and a half years we’ve also seen a renaissance in apprenticeships…. … well

Katy Balls

Justine Greening goes on the offensive over grammar schools

Although Nicky Morgan suggested yesterday that the government could be about to water down its grammar school proposals, Justine Greening showed no such signs in her conference speech. The Education Secretary received a standing ovation as she went on the offensive in defending Theresa May’s plans for a return to selective education. In a sea change from her claim this summer that she was simply ‘open minded’ to the idea, Greening put in a fiery defence of the proposal to lift the grammar school ban. After paying tribute to her own comprehensive roots – as the first ever Education Secretary to attend a non-selective state — Greening explained that education was at the heart of the

Nicky Morgan in the naughty corner

With Nicky Morgan the new Peter Bone of the Conservative party, the former Education Secretary is making her mark at this year’s conference as a Cameroon without a brief. Her opposition to Theresa May’s grammar school plans has not gone down well with No.10. Today Patrick McLoughlin used his interview with the Mirror to question why Morgan had allowed a grammar school to expand during her tenure if she was so against the idea. So, perhaps that’s why May has decided to keep a close eye on Morgan at this year’s event. Morgan was part of a panel discussion this morning titled ‘inequality in education’. While she used the session to re-iterate her concerns, it

Letters | 22 September 2016

Remote control Sir: Rachel Wolf argues that in education policy ‘the trend, from Kenneth Baker onwards, has been towards giving schools autonomy and promoting a system where parents choose schools’ (‘Bad grammar’, 17 September). Unfortunately, freedom from local authority control has been replaced with unprecedented central interference and control. For teachers, the burdens created by Ofsted inspections far outweigh those imposed by councils. In real terms, education spending has doubled since the introduction of the national curriculum in 1988, yet academic standards have at best stayed still. Wolf cites the success of a few academy chains, ignoring the indifferent performance of most. Her hero Michael Wilshaw has admitted that academies are

Selective education can tackle inequality. Here’s how

You know the figures: seven per cent of children in the UK attend fee-paying schools but they win 42 per cent of Oxbridge places and 70 per cent of jobs in private equity banking; they also make up 30 per cent of places in the cabinet. This is a significant decrease from previous cabinets – 50 per cent of David Cameron’s, 70 per cent of Sir John Major’s and 90 per cent of Margaret Thatcher’s were privately educated – but it is still worryingly high. Grammar schools are suggested by some as a solution, but they have a poor record of improving social mobility. Children with educated, comparatively wealthy parents

Will Theresa May’s grammars undermine David Cameron’s free schools?

Grammar schools remain one of the most highly-charged issues in domestic politics. There is bound to be controversy about how to boost social mobility and educational standards. But grammar schools bring to the surface other deep undercurrents as well. Were things better in the 1950s? What was Margaret Thatcher’s role in closing so many of them and did she want to see them brought back? Does the call for more grammar schools represent the best of authentic politics shaped by our own experiences, or does evidence-based policy making mean going beyond that? And it is where the Conservative Party fights its own version of class war – those who were

Bad grammar

It is almost mandatory, if you want to discuss grammar schools, to swap personal histories. Here’s mine: I am the beneficiary of three generations of social mobility, three generations of academic selection. My grandfather won a free scholarship to a public school (Christ’s Hospital) and left school at 16: his family needed him to work. But his education allowed him to become achartered surveyor. Both of my parents enjoyed free, selective education in schools that now charge about £16,000 a year. My brothers and I won scholarships to private secondaries. The alternative comprehensives were poor quality and a bit scary — my parents were faced with terrible state-school options. Then