Reports that the Secretary of State and Department of Education officials recently met with members of the Grammar School Heads Association gave us the first indications of the governments next moves in its plans for the expansion of selective education. Minutes from these meetings, outlined in the heads association spring newsletter, included a statement: ‘People who are philosophically opposed to selection, keep saying it damages the education of other pupils but present little or no evidence to support this claim’. Groups opposed to selection from around the country, including Excellent Education for Everyone, have now signed a letter from the national Comprehensive Future group providing exactly the evidence that they claim we have not presented and challenging the Grammar School Heads Association to provide evidence that selection does no harm to those not selected.
It seems that the Department for Education hasn’t learnt its lesson, having been ticked off last week by the UK Statistics Authority over a tweet with misleading statistics, they’ve been tweeting again this week and the claims made are just as misleading. Whoever is in charge of their twitter account clearly has no shame.
On November 10th, the Department For Education published a series of tweets aimed at promoting the idea that grammar schools are good. One of these tweets contained a seriously skewed statistic which the DfE clearly thought was going to show that grammar schools delivered better outcomes for white working class children than comprehensives schools did…and then the twitterverse took them to task and instead showed how it actually showed the opposite.
Ever since RBWM council first proposed the idea of opening a grammar school in Maidenhead, Theresa May’s stance on the subject has been that “good schools should be allowed to expand”. With her more recent moves to change the legislation that prevents the creation of new grammar schools she has gone one step further and now says that the law should not prevent good schools from opening. So what have we learnt from this? Clearly Theresa May thinks good schools are good and we should have more good schools and what is wrong with that.
But what exactly is a good school and how do we know that a new school will be a good school?
Out in YouTube land there’s a independent film about to go on release. It’s the story of a dystopian future where the population is tested for intelligence and only the brightest are allowed to survive. You can watch the trailer here.
Whilst the film explores an extreme approach to “thinning” the population, its not so very different to the selective education systems that we have in the United Kingdom. Every year in areas that have selective education, children are put through the awful process of testing to see if they are “worthy enough” to be allowed a decent education. So much of their lives will be determined by the outcome of this test that perhaps the extreme version portrayed in “The Thinning” isn’t such a huge step beyond what we do now.
Theresa May’s speech to the British Academy on September 9th was the worst speech on education ever delivered by a Prime Minister. It was remarkable for the lack of evidence for a fundamental change to our education system. The Prime Minister made a number of claims that at best are not supported by evidence and at worst are contradicted by it.
We received the following letter today from a worried parent from Maidenhead, who would like to share the effect that grammar schools over the border are having on her children.
Watching the recent flurry of TV debates on the question of whether to bring back grammar schools, you could be forgiven for thinking that the secondary modern school had no place in the debate. In every TV piece that I have seen the grammar proponents talk about Grammar schools educating the “most able” whilst the Comprehensive schools would be dedicated to the remaining pupils. Either they don’t understand what a Comprehensive school is or they are frightened to use the term Secondary Modern.
The Radio 4 More or Less statistical analysis programme looked at the evidence on the effect of Grammar schools today. You can find the original programme at More or Less: Behind the Stats but we’ve trimmed the content down to only include the relevant part of the programme for you.
Let’s suppose RBWM goes ahead with a new grammar school and our worst fears are proven true; our good comprehensives become poor performing secondary moderns and the attainment gap widens. Well so what? Setting aside (for a moment) the thousands of children whose education will have been ruined, surely we can correct the mistake and convert the new grammar school into a comprehensive?
Well no, actually the people of Maidenhead will pretty much powerless to recover the situation.