Leading article: Unnatural selection

Share

Today's report by the Local Government Ombudsman censuring two Kent grammar schools for flouting admissions regulations raises fresh questions about the role of selective schooling in state education. In essence, the Judd School in Tonbridge and the Skinners' School in Tunbridge Wells were found guilty of compromising the independence of appeals panels set up to hear complaints of unfair treatment by the parents of prospective pupils.

The report exposes a disturbing arrogance on the part of the schools. They clearly did not take the appeals system seriously enough. But it also, inevitably, feeds into a bigger debate about the future of the grammar school sector. The Government is in a quandary over what to do with these schools. While it accepts that the 164 remaining state grammar schools in England provide a first-class education for their pupils, it will not allow the grammar system to expand outside the areas in which it already exists. This is because the 11-plus selection mechanism is widely regarded as unfair, with its considerable bias to children from middle-class homes.

It is also outdated from an educational perspective. The secondary sector is steadily becoming a 14-19 system. At 13, children will soon be forced to make a choice as to whether to take diplomas (with a vocational slant but academic content) or GCSEs followed by A-levels. It makes no sense, even if one believes the 11-plus to be a fair exam, to divide children into academic and vocational "sheep and goats" at 11 if they are only going to make a fundamental choice about their future education just two years later.

It is interesting to note the reaction of one grammar school – St Joseph's College in Stoke-on-Trent – to a radical proposal from the local education authority to improve education standards. Stoke-on-Trent council has floated the idea of reorganising all the secondary schools in the area, closing them down and building a new system based on establishing one of the Government's flagship academies in the city.

In opposing the plan, St Joseph's has understandably emphasised how the reorganisation would bring an end to what had been, for many years, an excellent school. But the school's head teacher, Roisin Maguire, also argues that she might be prepared to drop selection if it proved a barrier to the school's existence.

Ms Maguire is right to argue that a good school should not be closed down. But the logical implications of her comments are also correct: academic selection at 11 is unfair and increasingly unsuitable for today's educational world.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'