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Merton UKIP Councillors Launch Grammar School Campaign

At their peak in 1964 there were 1298 Grammar schools in the UK. Today there are just 164. Most Labour and Lib Dem MPs would like to see them banished altogether and the Tories prefer to pursue their flawed free school agenda rather than return to a selective school system that worked. Yet we know from conversations on the doorstep that what parents actually want, and indeed what young people want, is the chance to go to a Grammar school.

Getting your child into a good school in Merton is nigh on impossible unless you’re Catholic or can pay for the privilege. Merton sits just below the national average on GSCE results and frankly it’s only thanks to the exemplary performance of two private schools that we’re even that high up the rankings. Back when I was looking for a secondary school for my own daughter the situation was far, far worse.

I was a single mother, living on an average income in a poor part of the borough. As a churchgoer, I’d got her into an excellent Primary School in a wealthier part of town and she’d had a great start to her education. The ‘best’ state secondary school in Merton was poor but I applied anyway – what other choice did I have? To my utter horror, she was rejected. We lived too far away. Merton Council wanted to send her to a nearby comprehensive which ranked almost right at the bottom of the national league tables. It was so bad that at one point an ex-army man was called in to instill discipline and control.

I’d put her in for Grammar school entrance exams in neighbouring boroughs but, with only a handful of places available for non-residents, that came to nothing. She had passed the test for Croydon High, a private GDST school, my last ditch stand back-up option, so I was looking into re-mortgaging the house – and even downsizing – when news came she’d got a place at Christ’s Hospital school in West Sussex. Christ’s Hospital is an academic school taking bright children from all walks of life, irrespective of their ability to pay. It does precisely what we should have Grammar schools in every borough or county doing up and down the country so anyone, anywhere can apply.

Meanwhile, I understand 50% of students who currently pass Grammar exams don’t get a place, such is the shortage in supply. Our children are missing out as a result.

My friends and colleagues who went to Grammar School speak about the positive ethos, about how they were encouraged to aspire to be the best they can. They talk about how their education gave them the confidence to achieve and how it created opportunities for them. This couldn’t be any more different than my own Comprehensive education. There the prevailing ethos was most tangibly obvious in our first Careers’ lesson, when the teacher asked us to think of what we wanted to do but it had to be something ‘sensible.’ When my best friend announced she wanted to be a Barrister you could just feel the teachers thinking ‘no chance!’ Yes, she achieved her aim but perhaps in spite of, not because of her secondary education?

Now, most parents here are in the same situation as I was with my own daughter; they look at poorly performing schools and want better and more choice. Demand for a Grammar school we’ve noticed is especially high among ethnic groups who have strong aspirations for their children. So, at the next Full Council meeting we will ask Council to explore whether our neighbouring Grammar Academies in Kingston and Sutton will work with us to open a satellite school in Merton. This is the only legal route open to us because the Government forbids the opening of any new Grammar school in areas which do not already have them, despite 66% of Conservative voters being in favour of them, according to a YouGov poll in June this year. We’re also asking for a public consultation on whether Merton should have Grammar schools for girls and boys, and for Council to formally ask the Secretary of State for Education to reconsider his opposition to new Grammar Schools.

All three of Merton’s UKIP Councillors think it is wrong that bright students whose parents can’t afford to send them to fee-paying schools or buy houses close to good schools are disadvantaged. The current Comprehensive system amounts to little more than selection by house price. Who on earth could think that is preferable to selection by ability? If we are truly to foster a more egalitarian society, then we need to offer pupils from all classes, backgrounds and areas the opportunity to access high standards of education and increase their life chances and potential for success.

Grammar schools were a great way of fostering social mobility and it’s time we brought them back.

 

Suzanne Evans is Leader of the UKIP Group in the London Borough of Merton, and a UKIP PPC.

Anyone who lives, works or studies in Merton can sign the petition for a new Grammar School at www.merton.gov.uk/petitions

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3 Comments on Merton UKIP Councillors Launch Grammar School Campaign

  1. The Grammar schools were doomed when the 1944 act failed to be implemented. It required the vast majority of the IQ Normal distribution to go to the secondary technical schools:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secondary_Technical_School

    Only 2-3% of kids ever went to one. WITH them, there would have been no “winners or losers” in the 11-plus. The class traitor Crosland would have had no excuse to try to “close every f****ing grammar school” down.

    With a fully implemented tripartite system implemented, ALL the pupils would have performed TO EXPECTATION, not requiring vast amounts of money to try to shore up the ideology that all children should be able to pass A-levels and enter university.

    Most kids would have obtained occupations where they were needed instead of shooting for the moon. We would have ample plumbers, electricians, craftsmen and technicians; who knows, we may even have kept our industries instead of sending them off to the Far East.

    Most importantly, by reserving a university education for the top 10% of the IQ curve, we could have kept tuition free, continued to provide grants, and had a truly elite scientific, technical and managerial professional class.

    But, as usual, socialist dogma destroys what it cannot bend to its ideology.

    It would be wonderful if, within my lifetime, a UKIP government implemented the 1944 Act as it should have been.

  2. Steven Whalley // October 31, 2013 at 3:48 pm //

    If you want to understand the reason for the decline in grammar schools, despite such schools being a good example of where the state can excel, you have to look at the history of opposition to grammar schools. The Labour party should have been in favour of a very successful socially-mobile school system yet was ideologically opposed, as they were supposedly ‘elitist’. The Conservatives opposed them because they thought it populist to be swayed by the educational consensus that comprehensives were appropriate for all. It also has to be acknowledged that one of the chief proponents against grammars was one Margaret Thatcher, despite the fact that she had got into Oxford via a grammar school education.

    It is easy to see that their sacrifice had nothing to do with better education or making sure that people could fulfil their potential, but had everything to do with political offerings.

    David Cameron bemoans the lack of educational skills and excellence in the workforce, yet avoids any mention that one solution might be to bring back the very schools dedicated to such educational excellence. Despite this, Gove at least is attempting some very useful educational reforms, although only going part of the way to where we would like to be.

    All of this does nothing for anyone looking to enter grammar schools now. However, UKIP’s policies are unique in the political field in setting out the very strong case for such academic state schooling. What we have to do is ensure that there are clear criteria for selecting school populations which will benefit from grammars, and the number of grammars we expect to have.

    At a guess, the selection rules might target those areas which have poor state schools in need of opportunity for their pupils, or those which have a preponderance of private schools where the grammars will have huge parental support. About 500 new grammars would do as a start, which would at least bring us up to about half the previous total.

  3. Well we do certainly need to get Grammar schools back, yesterday ULU went on strike, now to me that is a little bit like buying a meal and protesting by refusing to eat it. The UNI students of today believe that Russel Brand is the new messiah and lets be honest here, his only real contribution to society is proving you do not have to be too bright to be successful, it does worry me that future generations will suffer because of the lefty logic influence we now seem to have in our Universities and they seem to be producing far more sheeples than doctors, Grammar schools will put the brightest of the bright back into the universities and we may then be able to avoid producing highly educated shelf stackers for Tesco

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