Angela Burns AM, the Conservative shadow minister for education in Wales, has written an article in the Telegraph arguing that the Conservatives should not be afraid of offering voters a grammar school system in Wales – although it is not clear if that means separate grammar schools or grammar streams in normal schools. This is an extract…
It is time we put the Grammar back into education and Wales has just that perfect opportunity. Devolution enables us to work with other home nations in areas where we have synergy but we must also be prepared to step up, recognise our different needs and build policies fit for the Welsh people…
That is why today I want to talk about grammar schools.
Like the proverbial child when they were good they were very very good but in other areas the policy was divisive.
Selection at age 11 was unfair and weighted very much against children who have turbulent home lives. And if you were a child with artisan skills or a vocational dream you were disenfranchised by the system.
However many of the successes were outstanding. Today we use the measure of Free School Meals as the barometer of need and ability to attain. In 2011 over 95 per cent of children on free schools meals who went to a grammar school achieved at least 5 or more GCSE’s at C grade and above. Those who did not achieved a mere 30 per cent.
London University’s Institute of Education has argued that abolition of grammar schools has blocked disadvantaged pupils’ escape routes to top universities and higher salaries. Those who received government funding to attend private schools under the assisted places scheme went on to earn considerably higher than their state school counterparts. Around one in five pupils on the scheme are earning more than £70,000-a-year in their 30s, in comparison to just 7.6 per cent of their state counterparts. Pupils also achieved more highly in GCSEs and A-levels and were more likely to go to Oxford and Cambridge.
I think it is time that we revisited the successful elements of Grammar schools and sought apply it to a modern Welsh system. If we did that we might again see a Wales where excellence is championed in a dual education system. Instead of separating academic children from their more vocational counterparts, we could see the benefit of creating two equitable streams of education, one alongside the other, a dualing that begins at 14 – giving children the chance to develop important core subject skills before embarking on their chosen path.
The arguments that are often used against grammar schools are made by those who are happy to sit by and allow failing schools to exist, to watch PISA standards fall and accept that successive generations are lagging behind their peers in other nations of the UK.
We play in a global game and Wales can and should be a successful player. We may be a small country of some 3 million people, the size of Greater Birmingham but we are also close to the size of Norway which has one of the most advanced education systems in the world.
Do we have the confidence to take regard of best practice and put the Grammar back into Education?
What’s your take on this from @AngelaBurnsAM? Is she actually arguing for separate grammar schools or for ‘grammar’ streams in existing schools – it’s not clear from what she has written. Would a policy of clearer streaming within schools provide the best balance for all or is this effectively what happens anyway? Please share your thoughts and reactions…