Leading article: Selective confusion

Share
Related Topics

The Government's policy on selective education remains confused and highly unsatisfactory. Officially, in the words of a Department for Education spokesman, "legislation prohibits the establishment of new grammar schools – and ministers have been clear that will not change". Which might reasonably be expected to mean that no more grammar schools can be set up.

That, however, is not quite true. You can establish a new grammar so long as you call it a satellite of an existing grammar school. A plan to do just that has been agreed by Kent county councillors so that families in Sevenoaks – where there is no grammar school at present – could have one to send their children to.

The school – with an intake of 120 pupils in its first year – would have "links" to grammars in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells, which appears to be how Kent County Council has got round the Government's restrictions. But to all intents and purposes, a new grammar school is exactly what it will be.

That the desire for grammar schools remains strong – 70 per cent of Sevenoaks parents backed the plan – is not the point. Britain has a state education system of bewildering complexity comprising many different models, and for the Government to say one thing on grammar schools and acquiesce over another adds to a general sense of incoherence.

It is not just the Coalition Government that is obfuscating over selective schools. Labour was just as bad when it was in office. Both David Blunkett, when he was Education Secretary, and Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, often used to rail against the inequities of the 11-plus exam. Yet not one of the country's 164 remaining grammar schools was closed during Labour's 13 years in office. Indeed, the number of grammar-educated pupils increased under Labour.

Broadly speaking, Labour is opposed to grammar schools while many in the Conservative party favour them. But neither party has the courage to come out and say it. That benefits no one. Such prevarication has been a feature of the debate over education ever since the comprehensive ideal was – supposedly – embraced in the 1970s. Will it ever end?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Infrastructure / Network Engineer (VMware, Windows, LAN/WAN)

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Primary teaching jobs in Thetford

£1036224 - £1513056 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Educatio...

Primary teaching jobs in the Swaffham area

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Are you a fully quali...

Year 1 Teachers needed for day to day roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Gordon Brown’s finest hour, a letter from Quebec and the problem of anti-politics

John Rentoul
 

i Editor's Letter: The campaigning is over. So now we wait...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week