At Westminster if our MPs aren’t talking Brexit they’re a talking grammar schools. Broadly, the arguments are as follows…
The argument for grammar schools, being put forward by the government, is that it enables children who are more advanced to get an education tailored to their needs. This, in-turn, allows education to be be more tailored at all levels.
The argument against, which has support on all sides of the House of Commons, is that children shouldn’t be segregated at such a young age (11 years old) and that the Conservative government are trying to entrench class segregation.
In Scotland we’ve had a rather more simplistic education system of education. The choice is between state and private. Simple.
But for those of us who went through this system of education we know that we were also segregated in our education. I don’t recall it being a formal process – like the exam that’s required for grammar schools – but there came a point in high school where our class mates changed and we were separated into Credit and Foundation classes.
In Credit classes you were aiming for a grade 1 or 2. In Foundation classes the best mark you could get was a 3. This division was made through an assessment of our academic ability.
So where’s the problem with grammar schools?
Yes, 11 years old does seem like a very young aged to divide kids. But that’s a detail that can be amended.
Yes, perhaps it will unduly benefit middle class kids just now. But, if it does, we can build safeguards into the policy which will ensure the improving standards of schools for children who did not get into a grammar.
And yes, though it may not be widely acknowledged, there is already segregation in schooling. Children of better-off parents who have the money to buy a nicer house, in a nicer area, have the chance to send their kids to a better school.
Whether we like it or not segregation get has always, and will always, exist in education. Not all children are of equal academic ability. But what we should focus on is ensuring that all children have the same opportunity.
For us at the Scottish Politics Review education is unlike other aspects of social policy areas in that it is about inputs, not outcomes. All children should start from a level playing field. After that, they should be able to succeed to their best ability.
If grammars are a part of helping some kids succeed when they get to aged 14 or 15 then so be it. How are we going to help the rest?