Fiona Millar: Grammar school ‘annexe’ in Kent is a dangerous moment

Writing in the Guardian, Fiona Millar says Labour must share the blame for the latest moves to expand selective education and should now state clearly that it would create a truly comprehensive system.

…Grammar schools are socially divisive and anti-aspiration. They don’t, and never have, done much for the majority of poor children. Most successful applicants come from affluent homes as admission is accompanied by costly private tuition. The rest are rejected before they have even started their secondary school careers…

Even the government’s favourite think tank, Policy Exchange, agrees and recently highlighted evidence showing that any benefit to children attending grammar schools is outweighed by the impact on those left behind…

Nor should we be swayed by the idea that manipulating the pass rate to allow a few more bright poor children into the grammars will offset the damage they do.

…If a broader ability range is to be admitted to some grammar schools, why not go the whole way and have real comprehensive schools, which most international studies suggest are the most successful setting in which for all children to succeed?

This could be relatively easily arranged over a 10- or 15-year transition period, affecting none of the current pupils while bringing the benefits of comprehensive education to all.

If only Labour at least would say this. The party bears a huge responsibility for this situation, as it could have used its massive majority in 1997 to outlaw selection decisively…

It is a dangerous moment, which is why a legal challenge to the Kent decision is now being seriously considered by the campaigning group Comprehensive Future (of which I am a member). We believe the new school, which this project clearly is, contravenes the last government’s own Academies Act, which states that any new academy must be an all-ability school…

More at: Grammar school ‘annexe’ in Kent is a dangerous moment


Is Fiona Millar right in suggesting Labour should have used its huge parliamentary majority in 1997 to definitely scrap selection in this country?

Do you think they could have pulled it off and, if so, would that have been seen as a positive or negative legacy?

Please give us your opinion in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Policy and Secondary.


  1. TW

    Had Ted Heath not (rather unfairly) lost the 1974 general elections the few remaining grammar schools would almost certainly have been abolished.

    In 1997 the NuLab government could have transformed education (and much else) and in particular could certainly have taken the very positive step of ending the destructive, backward and divisive existence of grammar schools. Instead of which it betrayed its supporters; ignored its policy promises, understandings and expectations; and did little but maintain and worsen Tory policies not least in education with Blunkett very likely to have been the worse Education SoS ever.

  2. cia262

    SchoolsImprove We need more grammar schools. Comprehensive education a general failure. Fiona Millar typically attended former.

  3. cia262 Mr_Chas How can people be held responsible for decisions made by parents?  And could it be that Millar realised how divisive selection was because she went to a grammar?
    Remember, the ‘privilege’ of a grammar education was denied to 75% of the population.

  4. tony49

    SchoolsImprove We don’t need mediocre grammar schools, the term is just a secret ring wing code for ‘not having to mix with poor people’.

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