Wednesday, May 30, 2007

One final thing

It's grammar schools again. Sorry. I've now seen a lot of editorials and comment defending grammar schools. Some, such as Janet Daly's concentrate on the fact that grammar schools offered a first class education to the brightest children, ignoring the fact that the Tories' argument is that the eleven plus exam no longer finds the brightest children - just the best tutored. Others look at the important part aspiration plays, and how no Conservative government should be seen to be the enemy of aspiration.
Both good points, but it's important always to bear in mind that grammar schools admitted, at most, 25-30% of children. 70-75% went to secondary moderns that were underfunded, underequipped and understaffed. So the argument I want to hear from Janet Daly and others like her is why a return to secondary moderns for the overwhelming majority of British children would be a good thing. An educational system that ignores the need of the minority is an inefficient one. An educational system that caters specifically for the minority while ignoring and downplaying the majority is an indefensible one.
When I hear an intellectually coherent argument that speaks of a radical reorganisation of the schools at the bottom of the heap - that considers greater funding for technological schools for example, or perhaps a pupil-based state voucher system that varies the value of the voucher by the 'difficulty' involved in teaching the child - thereby at least creating an incentive for schools to cater for them - then I might be able to see more merit in the argument for the recreation of a two-tiered system. At the moment I hear an emotional spasm by people arguing that, whatever happens to the majority, their children should be educated apart, at greater expense. I wonder how many people would call for the recall of the grammar school if their children would have to go to a secondary modern?

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