Your View: Grammar Schools

paul blomfield

Monday, 13th March 2017, 14:01 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 09:55 am
Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield

Sheffield Central MP

Sheffield schools are facing deep cuts. In my constituency funding will fall by an average of 10.4 per cent.

Headteachers are saying that the system is reaching breaking point. But it doesn’t have to be like this. The Government has choices; it’s just making the wrong ones.

In last week’s budget the Chancellor found another £360 million for schools, but not a penny will help address the problems we’re facing.

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This cash bonanza is going to Theresa May’s pet project – new grammar schools.

I was one of the last generations of Sheffield kids who took the 11 plus.

Our life chances were shaped by the results of one test, taken before we reached puberty.

Based on a discredited theory of innate intelligence, selection at 11 was thrown into the dustbin of history in the 1960s.

Even Margaret Thatcher refused to bring it back. But Theresa May is changing that. Ignoring the advice of the former Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who said reintroducing selection would be “disastrous”, she wants to return to the 1950s.

Reviving selection will be even worse now than it was then. In today’s world, private tuition helps many children to exam success.

Parents who can afford it will understandably pay for extra support for new selection exams, gifting success to those children whose families have more money.

The Oxfordshire vicar’s daughter who is now our Prime Minister may remember her own grammar school fondly. But her rose-tinted memories are no way to set policy now.

We don’t need selective schools, just proper funding for the schools where most children go.

And if we do need new schools – let them be ones that serve the whole community.