Abolishing grammar schools in England damaged education

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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Theresa May is said to be planning to lift the ban on new grammar schools in England and Wales.

The great bulk of the grammar schools there were abolished decades ago by the Labour governments.

The intention was to end the shortcomings of a system in which children are supposedly ‘branded a failure’ at age 11.

A system that divides children is problematic imperfect and all abolition did was make an imperfect system, based on academic selection, into a much worse one, based on wealth.

Now English private schools dominate the professions and the top of public life to an alarming extent.

Some parts of England, such as Kent, have avoided the disaster of comprehensives, by keeping their grammar schools.

Northern Ireland also avoided disaster by keeping selective education, although Sinn Fein tried hard to abolish the Province’s fine grammar schools.

Now the education ministry is in the hands of Peter Weir, who made clear his support for academic selection almost as soon as he took up office.

It would have been an unforgivable political blunder if Stormont had allowed education in Northern Ireland to follow the failed path of England, and had reduced social mobility in the way that the abolition of grammar schools has done there.

Mrs May is herself the beneficiary of a grammar school education, and she seems determined to stamp out any sense that the Conservative Party is the domain of privately educated people.

In her ruthless government reshuffle she demonstrated tough leadership qualities and her commitment to promotion based on perceived merit rather than any hint of cronyism or privilege or public school cliques.

It is no surprise if she believes that grammar schools served the UK well before most of them were closed.