Today I will be exploring the role of grammars in our state educational system, with Graham Brady and Janet Daley.
The hatred of academic selection at 11 is an anomaly in our system of education. All political parties and most in the educational establishment agree with rigorous academic selection at 18, to decide who will go to university, and to determine who will go to the elite universities. The places in the best institutions go to the students who do best at A level and in academic interview.
All parties agree that from 16 onwards students should have to take an array of competitive examinations. Those seeking vocational qualifications also have to achieve various standards in GCSE qualifiers, and in the subsequent vocational tests and exams. This means that from 16 onwards all parties and the educational establishment have to accept the failure of some as well as encouraging success for many.
When it comes to promoting high quality sporting achievement, dancing, art, singing, and other musical activities we base our system from an early age on competition and special training or instruction for those who achieve more and show a greater willingness to practice and learn. The UK’s all conquering Olympians were given special coaches, special training regimes and very special treatment. In return they had to work extremely hard and give their utmost to the task. They had to reach high levels of achievement to stay on the programmes. If someone wants to be a concert pianist, a premier league footballer, an England cricketer, an opera singer or a ballerina, they have to go through arduous training based on selection on merit.
We allow children with rich parents to go to good schools,giving them charitable status. We allow those independent schools to select their pupils as they wish. Some of these schools give great academic coaching and expect high standards. The grammars used to give an equivalent specialised academic opportunity to children without rich parents. Now that only happens in a handful of counties like Kent, Buckingham and parts of Berkshire.
The result is more independent school pupils proportionately get into the elite universities. Instead of trying to dumb down requirments for university, we need to foster a cadre of schools specialising in teaching the most committed students who have an academic aptitude and determination. It is the best way to social mobility into academic life and the leading knowledge based professions.