Nobody’s ever going to win the debate that’s currrently ‘trending’ on both sides of the political chasm (divide + Corbyn = chasm) in England. I went to a grammar school and frankly it doesn’t seem to have done me any harm. My education at that time was supplemented by many hours exploring the wonders of the Natural History Museum, or the Science Museum, or the Geology Musuem. I also attended a comprehensive as my family moved from one part of the country to another and I was forced to change schools. So, being a product of both grammar and comprehensive schools, I feel qualified to join this debate on both sides. I’m going to add to this academic qualification a level of vocationally acquired understanding of the world at large, thus confirming my standing as an expert in the field of education….
…and I’ve come to the following conclusion: This argument is nothing to do with schools or education. We all know, however politically incorrectly, that the success or failure of many schools is correlated to the ‘class’ of the children attending that school. The statistics seem to be fairly elementary – easily understood by a pupil at a well-performing school, potentially barely comprehensible to a pupil at a poorly-performing school: the more middle class bias in the roll, the more likely it is that the school will perform well. Having been to both types of school, I can explain exactly the reason for this, and it ain’t difficult.
The problem with a school system in which comprehensive and gramar schools dominate the provision of education is that there needs to be a discrete dividing line between the two but there isn’t a discrete dividing line in the continuum of ability. An ‘average’ achiever will do just as well in a good comprehensive as in a decent grammar school, but be differently positioned in relation to his or her peers, either more or less ‘successful’ depending on the achievement levels of the other pupils. The difference is that the grammar school is more likely to push that level of ‘average’ attainment upward, and the comprehensive more likely to allow it to slip downward, as each attempts to normalise around the middle ground of its constituency.
We know that the one of the prevaling attitudes in the left-leaning constituency is anti-aspirational, a drive toward the centre ground of political correctness, equality of opportunity and redistribution of wealth from achievers to non-achievers. Not universally, of course, just generally. We are also distinctly aware of the political forces which align themselves to these attitudes.
We know that one of the prevaling attitudes in the right-leaning constituency is aspirational, a willingness to embrace achievement and to reward it, and an understanding that wealth creation and opportunity, whilst potentially divisive, is also the way to a society which is free, democratic and capable of supporting itself without undue interference from the ‘state’. I’m guessing that most of are also aware of the political forces which align themselves to these attitudes.
So when the anti-grammar side start to lobby for the replacement of all comprehensive schools in this country by schools aligned to the grammar school model, I’ll be voting for them.