I welcome Jimmy Allen’s response to my article outlining my opposition to grammar schools, and thank him for challenging my own beliefs, but on this I will not be swayed. I would like to come back on a few points Jimmy made against my article.
On his first point where he dismisses my valid point regarding the psychological impact a ‘fail’ at the ‘Kent Test’ can have, I would like to see the evidence for why this point is dismissed. There is plenty of anecdotal stories I know of people who failed the ‘Kent Test’ that rebelled against education in entirety for their perceived rejection by the education system, and whilst I acknowledge there are exceptions to this rule, I prefer to talk in terms of the overwhelming majority rather than the tiny minority.
Jimmy then questions my party’s (the Liberal Democrats) and my own commitment to ‘choice, individualism and freedom’ on the basis of our opposition to grammar schools. Whilst I agree that in theory grammar schools may well give ‘choice’ to our education system, I would point out to Jimmy that the choice is a false one. Those students that are on the cusp of the ‘intelligence’ required for grammar and comprehensives often require extra paid tuition in order to pass the test. This means there is an economic inhibiting factor to freedom; those on-the-cusp children whose parents cannot afford private tuition will be pigeon-holed into schools with less resources on the basis of income, a clear block to genuine social mobility. So whilst I congratulate Jimmy on passing the test as a self-confessed ‘working class lad’ I would point out that he clearly isn’t the on-the-cusp child I was talking about.
Finally, perhaps I should clarify further what I meant when I suggested existing grammars should become comprehensives. For one, the comprehensives that I am thankful that I managed to avoid going suffered from a lack of resources and a lack of quality teachers precisely because of the grammar schools very existence, they syphoned off those resources away from the comprehensives; meaning of course they were worse schools than grammars. But more than this, my point in the original article (which I admittedly didn’t convey well enough) is that the debate between state-comprehensives and state-grammars is an argument from the 1950s that need not be brought up again. The debate instead should be on how to improve all the schools currently in the state-system, and to do that we should be looking not at the return of an arbitrary test at 11 years of age, but instead should look at the grammar school-less system they employ in Finland, where the comprehensive school system sits at the top of Europe’s rankings for the past 16 years. That is a system that does give children a genuine choice, rather than the economically restricted and psychologically scarring one that Jimmy and the Conservatives propose with zeal.
More from this debate:
- I went to a grammar school and, no, they are not the answer | Callum Gurr
- Actually, Grammar Schools Can be the Answer | Jimmy Allen
'Actually Grammar Schools Can be the Answer': My Rebuttal to Jimmy Allen | Callum Gurr Reviewed by Student Voices on 18:15 Rating: