Politics / UK

Educating Whitehall: Why selective schools must go

Amidst the doom and gloom of Brexit, numerous policies supported by the current Conservative government seem to be going unnoticed. The recent Investigatory Powers Bill, for one, holds nowhere near as much traction as it would’ve if we had not voted to Leave.

Additionally, the government’s ambition to introduce more grammar schools is going largely unchallenged. This seems to reflect a societal acceptance of schools which actively create a disparity in educational attainment, with private schools also still receiving favourable treatment through benefits such as tax breaks.

According to a report by the Guardian earlier this year, those who are privately educated continue to gain the most highly coveted jobs.  The majority of top doctors, as well as judges, for instance, received a private education despite only representing 7% of the population. Grammar schools reflect this too, as it was recently found that only 2.6% of grammar school students are from a poor background.

This could be down to the fact that only rich families can afford the tutoring required for their children to sit the 11-plus examination presented to those attempting to attend. A huge deficit between the haves and have-nots has therefore been created due to many not being able to pay exorbitant entry or tutoring fees for these schools.

Another issue with these schools is that they may not actually benefit those who get to attend them. It’s no doubt that private schools offer students an impeccable education; however, once these people leave for University, the exclusive education they received seems to act as a hindrance to their academic development. This is due to the fact that former private school students are currently being outperformed by those from state ones.  Although no research has been conducted regarding grammar schools in this area, it would not be a surprise if the greater support they received did not prepare them for working independently at University level.

For fear of sounding too sympathetic for those in private education, I feel that a complete abolishment of these schools is the best way tackle these problems. To many, this may sound like pie-in-the-sky, pop-socialism but there is an excellent example of a developed, democrat country achieving this goal: Finland. A recent BBC report documented that unlike the U.K, Finland finished close to the top of worldwide education rankings. Although there could be a number of explanations for this phenomenon, the fact that private schools do not exist may be one reason for their success in this area. Every Finish child, with the exception of the small number attending faith schools, are educated in a local comprehensive school. As there are no league tables, these schools do not feel the need to push their students to the limit, instead favouring progressive methods which allow everybody (no matter how much their parents earn) to prosper.

In summary, such a reform would act as one resolution for a country which continues to fetishise wealth in a way which is harming people from poorer backgrounds. It would do so by helping to chip away at the edifice which the elites have constructed as well as democratise an education system which is unfair. Doing so will then provide those from less fortunate backgrounds to start on a level playing field with the others.

4 thoughts on “Educating Whitehall: Why selective schools must go

  1. Really interesting read in an area that is close to me – politics and the politics of education.
    Regarding your point about ‘numerous policies going unnoticed’ I wonder if it’s partly media saturation, not necessarily in terms of stories about education (although it could play a part) but more, that there is so much news out there so that there is not enough time to process it all. Therefore allowing in some way for the government to push through policies without thorough examination from the press or even the public… just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

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