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.
As the parent of two school age children, who will be moving to their secondary education from September 2019, I am very apprehensive about the proposals to bring a grammar school to Maidenhead.
Other parents say “But why? Why should you worry? It will just make things easier for people whose children are going to go to a grammar school – it wont change anything for the rest of the children.”
I wish I could have that confidence. But I don’t. Why don’t I? Well, maybe because I loosely work in the field of education; maybe because I grew up in an area that didn’t have selective education, or maybe because I have spent a lot of time recently researching the possible impact of a grammar school on our neighbourhood.
Maidenhead, Berkshire has a population of 86,000 is situated on the River Thames and sits west of London between the M40 to the north and M4 to the south.
There are around 10,000 young people attending state schools in the town aged between the ages of 4 and 18 years plus a number in the independent sector and a smaller number who attend schools outside of the Royal Borough in adjacent education authorities.
As a result of the proximity of Buckinghamshire schools just across the Thames from Maidenhead (in Burnham, Slough, Marlow and Wycombe) there has been a long-standing reciprocal arrangement with the Bucks education bodies that Maidenhead pupils can sit the 11-plus exam and be offered places at Bucks Grammars, whilst Maidenhead’s Comprehensive schools accommodate Bucks pupils whose parents prefer to see them in a comprehensive a few miles away rather than in a Secondary Modern closer to home. Anyone who has ever travelled the Maidenhead to Marlow branch line in the mornings or early evenings will be well aware of the mass migration of young people across county borders in pursuit of the optimum education experience as chosen by their parents. And this arrangement seems to work for those in Maidenhead who aspire to selective education and many in Bucks who want to escape it.