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.
Let’s be completely clear, a Comprehensive School is an all ability school requiring the full range of pupils for it to be “comprehensive”; schools that exist alongside Grammar Schools and that accept pupils without a selection test are Secondary Moderns.
During a recent TV debate on Channel 4 news, Fiona Millar twice corrected Chris Philp MP on this point and I saw no evidence that he had accepted the point. No doubt Philp is a bright lad and I’m sure that he completely understands that the wholesale re-introduction of the grammar school would see all of our existing Comprehensives transformed into Secondary Moderns but he certainly isn’t willing to talk about that.
So why are the proponents of Grammar Schools so unwilling to talk about Secondary Moderns? Could it be that to do so would completely destroy their continued reliance on the “social mobility” myth or perhaps they’re worried that too many people might remember why the UK moved away from the 2 tier education system in the 1960’s. As Fiona Millar points out, in 1959 during the so called golden age of Grammar Schools, only 9% of pupils left school with 5 O levels whilst now the figure is nearer 60% – if there is anything that has truly delivered on social mobility it is the Comprehensive School.
The truth is nobody wants to see Secondary Moderns return to Maidenhead nor, for that matter, anywhere else in the country and that is why grammar supporters don’t want to talk about them.