Conservatives need a lesson in equality: grammar schools must go


By Elisha Mans, First Year Politics

Grammar schools do not encourage social mobility - they hide the perpetual privilege of the rich.

Boris Johnson brazenly claimed that grammar schools are ‘a great mobiliser and liberator'. All hail the grammar school.

Yet, when we consider that only around 3 per cent of grammar school pupils are from disadvantaged backgrounds, we start to uncover the gaping flaws in selective schooling.

Generally, to gain access to a grammar school place, a child must sit their 11 plus exams. In other words, at age 11, we are asking children to sit an exam which determines their pathway through schooling and further. We are asking a child to separate themselves from their peers and ‘be the best’. To demand this of a child puts a huge amount of pressure on them - pressure that, at 11 years old they are not adept to cope with. This sounds like a ridiculous idea from the outset.

These exams become outright ludicrous, however, when the children from rich backgrounds are being tutored from the age of five to succeed in their 11 plus exams.

Of course, if you have the money to pay for your child to be tutored into a school that promises higher academia, you will pay for this tutoring and see your child gain a place in a selective school.

This means it is near impossible to argue that the 11 plus exams truly give academic children from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to prosper when they are competing against children who have been trained at great expense to succeed.

The pro-grammar school advocate, usually a member of the middle-class, will dispute this with claims that bright, disadvantaged children get the opportunity to gain a place to a school likely leading them to higher education; but this is evidently not the case.

Take, for example, the fact that the average grammar school has fewer than three per cent of their pupils on free school meals, compared to an average of 14 per cent across the state sector. If grammar schools really are such strong mobilisers, then there should not be this sort of clear disparity.

Grammar schools tend to be in the most affluent areas - Kent has one of the largest proportions of grammar schools in England- and this, even as a starting point, demonstrates the inequalities within the system.

Yet, the problem with selective schools reaches further than just hindering social mobility.

If Theresa May's proposal to increase financial support for grammar schools becomes a reality, mainstream schooling would suffer funding cuts of around £2.8bn. State comprehensive schools are often already stretched to breaking when it comes to funding and thus, as a country, can we really afford to take that money and give it to just the select few? Would it not be further disadvantaging the disadvantaged to give funding to schools which have predominantly middle-class pupils?

Grammar schools, proposed by the rich for the rich, have no place in a society which claims to want to provide equal opportunities regardless of background.

Featured image: Unsplash/Kyo Azuma

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