Grammar schools and meritocracy

The debate and deception over the grammar school system in the UK could serve as a perfect example of what is wrong with Labour and British society in general, as well as the active fraud being touted by the Conservative Party.

I want you to imagine for a moment that you were fortunate enough to have an academically gifted child who excelled in Maths and Science, but you cannot afford to send that child to a private school. What options would you prefer to have open to you? Would you like your young one to go into a school and a class full of mixed ability students,or would you opt for an academically selective school that recognised your offspring’s talents and offered tailored learning, teachers and facilities to allow junior to fully develop all his or her talent?

If you choose option two, then I sincerely hope you are not a Labour voter. Labour have done more to demolish the grammar school system (that was option two) than any other party in history. Ah OK, so we all we have to do is hope the Conservative Party return to power and undo all the nonsense, right? Wrong. The Conservatives have never, and will never, reverse the damage done to meritocracy in the school system. Indeed, they actively participate in the demolition of it.

The fundamental principle of the grammar school system is opportunity. Bright students from any class, colour or creed can be selected to attend a school catering to their full potential through accelerated learning and appropriate treatment. That’s it. There is no excessive payment involved, there is no grand conspiracy to pick the finest and throw them into some privileged club, and those who do not make it can continue their education in a comprehensive school (just like me) that, in turn, is free to accommodate, plan and help students of a certain level. In short, it helps everyone.

This piece of common sense – like most others – has been blown to pieces by Labour and teh liberal establishment. Grammar schools have been viciously attacked as some form or elitism or symbol of inequality amongst the people, as though they were part of some grand plan to steal education from anyone who could not pass the entrance exam. Instead, we have been treated to the great dumbing down of British pupils via the comprehensive system.

If grammar schools were restored, comprehensives could go back to doing their job of assisting students to find their own skills, be they practical, specialised or simply identifying and overcoming any problems holding them back in the classroom. Right now though, the comprehensive system – of which I am a product – serves as an emblem of left wing ideology that everyone is equal. In this case, everyone is equally dumbed-down. Comprehensives offer no grouping by ability (with very minor exceptions) and subscribe to the philosophy that by mixing stronger and weaker students in one class, the weaker ones will gain some kind of benefit.

As a teacher myself, I can tell you categorically that in my experience, this theory does not work. Certainly there is little scientific evidence to support it. Rather – and surely this is a predictable conclusion to such an experiment – the class often settles down to a middle ground between the weakest and the strongest. Equally often, the class will take the character of the strongest and most vocal personalities in the group, which is rarely the brightest of the bunch, as those types tend to focus more on their studies than influence of their peers.

But it is not only the make up of the schools that have been transformed, the nature of the curriculum has changed too. In 2003, ‘Private Eye’ magazine published teh diary of a teacher in a standard comprehensive school. The diary was so shocking that, intially, some claimed it was fake or exagerrated. The writer of teh diary has since been revealed and teh deatils held to be true. I have never taught professionally in the UK but I have taken an active interest in educational developments and I have several friends who work as teachers or otherwise within the system. The conclusion is simple: we are producing higher grades through weaker exams, and lesser-skilled students through a liberal teaching ideology that focuses on life skills over core subjects and political correctness over practicalities.

The teachers must often feel like soldiers in the front line.Part of this ideological experiment focuses on student-centered learning to the (ahem) degree that discipline and mutual respect have become dirty ideas. Assaults on teachers are at an all time high. My own hometown figures in the national top ten for the number of students expelled for violence in the classroom.

It’s a Marxist’s dream and a Conservative’s nightmare, and it’s all happened under the watch of a Tory party who have done little to object. Moreover, many of them take part in its circumvention purely for selfish reasons. David Cameron, like so many of the elite, has moved into an area with souring house prices to land in the catchment area of one of Britain’s top schools. Effectively, such schools become private schools, the local property prices being determined by nothing but the locality of the school. Too bad that the rest of us cannot afford such massive house prices in tough times.

What can be done to reverse the body blow struck to our education system? UKIP, to their massive credit, actively support restoration of grammar schools. Popular Alliance go one step further and pledge to restore grammar schools, return balance to the curriculum and restore classroom control to the teacher. No we are not talking canes and ten hour detentions, but simply the ability to punish and reprimand where appropriate. Like so many of Labour’s targets for destruction, the Popular Alliance system is based and tried, trusted and effective techniques.


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