In the UK it is currently being discussed whether Grammar schools are going to make a re-appearance on the education landscape. The Prime Minister suggests that “The ban on new selective schools has been in place too long and has held bright poor children back” (more information on the government’s plans for grammar schools available here). This move to allow new selective schools to open is being couched as part of the governments plans to improve social mobility and ultimately social justice. Researching education, educational attainment or educational disadvantage is not my area of academic expertise. I am however deeply committed to education, the value it can bring to people’s lives, and believe that learning for pleasure rather than attainment should be encouraged. I attended a comprehensive school and then pursued my higher education through the university system. I’ve spent a long time in education, and I still love learning, that’s why I do the job I do.
In my current role and through the research I do, I often meet young men who have dropped out of school, for whom school has been a traumatic and fraught experience, young men who leave school unable to read, and young people and families who are living in some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised estates and communities. Bringing back Grammar schools is not going to suddenly allow those young people to thrive any more than the current education system. The idea that a child taking an 11 plus test from a disadvantaged community is on the same playing field as a middle class child, coached for the test is, frankly, laughable. Structural disadvantages exist long before children reach the age of 11. Child poverty is not solved by children getting through a test and into a Grammar school. Investment in communities and in the education system we have might be a better place to start if the government really are serious about social mobility. Maybe first however, the government should take out the dictionary and look up what social justice is, then they might see that Grammar schools are not the solution.