DUP is right to back Theresa May on grammar schools

Morning View
Morning View

One of the most emotive rows that has flared up since Theresa May became prime minister is over her plan to roll out new grammar schools.

The controversy took a new twist yesterday when the DUP signalled it would back the move.

Sammy Wilson, the party’s education spokesman, advised Mrs May to ignore the “barrage of criticism” her proposal.

Mr Wilson has issued good advice. The DUP has played a central role in saving Northern Ireland’s grammar schools. 
There are, to be sure, problems with school provision in the province in a range of respects. The tribally divided system leads to inefficient, and at times over, provision of schools.

This can even mean that some grammar schools have a very wide intake in terms of ability and are barely selective.

There are particular educational challenges facing young, working class Protestant males.

But these are problems that have deep cultural roots, and to deduce from them that the grammar school system should be abolished would a disastrous response to a mis-diagnosis.

We can see how abolition in England merely made the educational system there even more unfair by becoming more based on family wealth.

Mrs May is not proposing that grammar schools are the only solution to educational provision in the 21st century UK. But an overall system that includes some state-funded schools that try to find the brightest children of all backgrounds and to educate them at a particular pace and with a particular ethos is a sensible goal. Exactly how the schools identify those children is another matter.

An ideology prevailed in Great Britain that was bitterly hostile to such a system and it destroyed fine grammar schools up and down England. The ideology almost prevailed here.

Mrs May has encountered so much opposition to her plans, including some within her party, that to prevail she will need every MP she can muster. It is good that she can count on some NI MPs.