David Willetts, the Conservative education spokesman announced last week that his party did not support any kind of academic selection and that Grammar Schools were the instruments of the Devil. (Conveniently forgetting that he wouldn't have had a chance of ever getting his own job if he hadn't been fortunate enough to go to one himself.)
David Cameron (Eton) hurried to enthusiastically support him. He certainly doesn't believe that some children should have a better chance than others.
It's all about as convincing as me claiming to be off with stress. No doubt it is just some clever political move, as these announcements always are.
Read the third paragraph in this article to see just how bright this Willets bloke really is. If you happen to be a Head in a crummy school, nervously expecting a visit from on high, then simply hire a string quartet for the day, get them to wear your school's uniform and you will have no difficulty pulling the wool over the visitor's eyes. Money well spent.
Academic selection is the only way out of the slums for many poor but bright kids. It really is the only chance they will ever have. Academic schools attract academic teachers, inner city hell holes do not; they attract those who are very good at controlling unruly pupils and those who simply could not get a job anywhere else. Let's not pretend that anything other than riot control and baby sitting go on in these places.
I'm not big on personal anecdotes as they are rarely significant. However here's one for you.
In 1952 my father passed his eleven plus and went to a grammar school where he was given an education that was better than I received from my Comprehensive 25 years later. He was from a working class background as were many others in his school. If I had stayed in the same area my children would have to go to a school which is now far worse. This neatly sums up the decline over the last half century.
For 99% of people nowadays their future is sealed from the moment they are born. Infant schools now have behaviour problems unheard of thirty years ago which disrupt their efforts to teach reading, writing and basic sums, all that young children really need. A much broader curriculum which insists on them being taught unnecessary gumf further hinders the teachers' efforts. Therefore it is left to the parents to teach the basics, which further increases the divide between those with good ones and those whose parents couldn't give a toss.
The kids who are bright at 5, 8 or 11 would benefit from an academic education and ought to be given the chance of one. The ones who aren't should be given the chance to do non academic stuff that might at least hold some interest for them, rather than the present system of ever larger schools trying and failing miserably to cope with an ever greater range of abilities. However, it doesn't seem like anyone likely to get into power in the near future agrees.