Every child has merit

I’m a firm believer that the postcode of the bed you’re born in, what your parents did for a living, your background, your identity or, more pertinently, the results of an exam you did in year 6 should not determine where you end up in life.

Theresa May’s plan to bring back Grammar Schools is yet another example of how this “new” government (made up of the same faces, but with a distinctly more right-wing tinge) doesn’t just not care about helping kids from working class backgrounds like mine getting on in life, but is actively working against that idea. When David Cameron was Tory leader, even he labelled the idea of bringing back Grammars as “delusional”. There’s no evidence that Grammar Schools enhance social mobility. In regions where there is no selection, every child does better, even the brightest.

No parent would accept anything less than the best for their kids. Grammars supposedly represent a meritocracy, but surely every child has merit, not just the ones with parents who can afford an 11+ tutor. Grammars don’t bring about a meritocracy. Grammars don’t enhance social mobility. Grammars don’t let working class kids climb the ladder. They entrench inequality. They entrench the divisions between the top and bottom of our society, all whilst giving the proponents of grammar schools the odd example to point to of a successful grammar school kid done good (ie, Theresa May herself).

If their plan to bring back selection to our education system goes through, Russell Group universities like ours will become the preserve of the rich and middle-classes who can afford expensive tutoring to get their kids into the local Grammar. Our university sets a benchmark that by 2019, 25% of its students should be from backgrounds like mine. This Tory plan would leave that target in tatters. As university students, we should be worried about what the Tories are doing to schools because whatever happens to the education system inevitably has a knock-on effect on universities.
In this post-Brexit world, what we don’t need is yet another relic from the 1950s. We don’t need kids being told at 11 that they’re a failure. Why can’t the government invest in making state schools better? Schools are facing a class size crisis, with half a million children in classes which are far too big. The teaching profession is facing a crisis in recruitment and retention. Just when you thought it couldn’t get much worse than Michael Gove, who teachers said had “chosen to base policy on dogma, political rhetoric and his own limited experience of education” when he was Education Secretary, Theresa May bursts in with this poorly conceived plan to drag us back to the bad old days of selection.

At a time when the government is already hitting young people with the double whammy of another tuition fee increase and the abolition of maintenance grants for the most vulnerable students, they go one step even further and vow to bring back social division to our schools. Looking at that, you can’t help but think that the government is determined to stop kids from working class backgrounds like mine from getting as far in life as they would like.

Jamie Ali

(Image courtesy of Guernsey Grammar School)

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