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8/11/2016

Grammarschoolscannothelp90%ofchildren|Education|TheGuardian

Grammar schools cannot help 90% of children


Estelle Morris
The government is distorting the debate to say grammars can help weak schools but comprehensives are
our best hope
Tuesday 25 October 2016 06.30BST

ustine Greening, the education secretary, looks set to be dened by the debate on grammar
schools: four months into her job and its dicult to point to any other signicant
announcement or new idea.

The debate is a shorthand for all the inequalities and divisions that have plagued our education
system for ever. It was bound to release a torrent of protest and rightly so. The opposition to a
return to the selective education of the 50s and 60s comes from all sections of society and the
political spectrum.
My fear, though, is that while opponents of grammar schools argue this case, the government is
reframing the debate so it is no longer about traditional grammar schools but instead about their
place in the new education landscape one selective school for each multi-academy trust, and
grammar schools taking over struggling schools or opening free schools. This could appear a far
more attractive proposition to parents and the public and win greater support. But it is a deeply
awed idea and not supported by the evidence.
The governments case is outlined in its consultation paper. Its premise is that strong schools
should support struggling schools and teachers learn from each other. But it distorts this to argue
that selective schools are the great strength in the system and are uniquely equipped to improve
some of the countrys most challenging schools. Selective schools new role will be to recruit
more children from poor backgrounds, take over struggling schools and open non-selective
schools from scratch. And independent schools will have to sponsor an academy or set up a free
school to keep their charitable status.
Many selective schools do well by the children they choose, and of course they should contribute
to education beyond their own doors. But does their success with bright, motivated young people
from supportive home backgrounds give them the skills and experience to turn round schools
with large numbers of struggling and disaected children? That is where the challenge lies.
Ministers talk about trying to ensure that grammar schools help bright children from poor
families perhaps by forcing the schools to reserve them a place or by lowering the pass rate. If
getting a percentage point or two more high-achieving children into grammar schools is the
extent of the governments ambition, it really isnt worth the eort they are putting into it it is
unambitious.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/oct/25/grammarschoolsweakcomprehensiveshope

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8/11/2016

Grammarschoolscannothelp90%ofchildren|Education|TheGuardian

The great need in our schools is to do better for the children who underachieve and who wouldnt
get anywhere near the grammar school pass mark but who have huge promise if it could only be
unlocked. What are grammar schools going to oer them? The whole misadventure reveals an
outdated view of the world: one where traditional groups are thought to have all the answers and
those in power cant see that excellence can be found in unexpected places.
We are a long way from realising the dream of a school system where background is no barrier to
achievement and all children ourish but the comprehensive system has taken us further along
this road than any system before. Ministers should recognise and applaud comprehensives for
being the 21st-century engines of social mobility and our best hope of further progress. My
biggest concern is that we now seem to have a government with little condence in the system
that educates more than 90% of the nations children.
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Topics
Grammar schools Schools Education policy Social exclusion Secondary schools
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