My take on the grammar schools fiasco

By Stephen Pollard
May 17, 2007

You can read my take on David Willetts' grammar school speech here, in today's Daily Mail. (By the way, someone has inserted a nonsensical reference to assisted places in the piece - please ignore it as assisted places were, of course, nothing to with grammar schools.)

Here's the gist of my piece: Mr Willetts has all sorts of nuanced explanations for his dumping of grammar schools. He says that there are too many middle class pupils in grammar schools and not enough pupils from poor backgrounds - basing this assertion on the fact that fewer pupils qualify for free school meals in grammars than in an average state school.

Yet if you look instead at the best-performing 200 comprehensives, just 5.3 per cent of pupils get free meals, compared with the national average of 14.3 per cent.

So, using Mr Willetts' warped logic, should the Tories therefore associate themselves only with sink comprehensives? Clearly, his argument is a nonsense.

...A poll last year found that 70 per cent of parents would like to see more grammar schools established. But forget what ordinary people want. The Conservative leader's every action is based on gaining the acceptance of the chattering classes - the Islington dinner party set who run the BBC and the Left-liberal media who despise grammar schools.

Not that we should be surprised to see a Conservative betray the country on education. The party's record has been shameful for decades. It was a Conservative education minister, Sir Edward Boyle, who began the dismantling of grammar schools in the 1950s.

Have a guess under which Education Secretary more grammar schools closed than any other? Tony Crosland or Shirley Williams? No. The answer is Margaret Thatcher, who did not lift a finger to stop a single grammar school from closing in Edward Heath's 1970-1974 government.


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