Home / Press releases and articles / Selective education – letter to Windsor & Eton Express 30/3/2017

Dear Sir

I am writing on behalf of Windsor Labour Party.

We welcome and support the stance taken by Windsor schools in respect of selective education. It was reported in last week’s Windsor and Eton Express that Windsor Girls’ School, Windsor Boys’ School and St. Edward’s Royal Free Middle School have declared their opposition in their response to the borough consultation on selective education.

As the Heads of these schools state, ‘’Every secondary school is fully committed to improving outcomes for all students.’’ Further that ‘’There is no compelling or credible research that grammar schools improve outcomes for all or for disadvantaged students. However there is a robust research that suggests that an increase in selection would have no positive impact on social mobility.’’

The Government set out its plans on selective education in a green paper (a consultation document), ‘Schools that Work for Everyone,’ published in September 2016. Its proposals on selective education would allow existing grammar schools to expand, new selective free schools to open, existing comprehensive schools to become wholly or partially selective and academies to establish separate centres for their ‘most able’ pupils.

Ongoing data indicates that the success of schools relates to many features and policies including collaborative working and shared practice. This has been clearly demonstrated by the ‘London Challenge’, for example, and in the policies of our local schools which exist under a comprehensive system. A change to selective education is likely to have negative effect. It has been well documented that selection leads to segregation while comprehensive education can provide high quality inclusive education. It is feared by many that selection will fuel testing and exacerbate exam factory culture. For every new grammar school created, three or four neighbouring schools have their admission intakes distorted and unbalanced in ways the head teacher cannot control. This is not a policy about choice. Selective education is a distraction – the Government must deal with the funding crisis facing all schools which has been reported in this paper and in the national press.

There are head teachers across the country who have formed groups opposing the plans of this government. Many local councils are also passing resolutions declaring their opposition. Teacher unions including the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers are opposed. Even the Conservative Party is divided, including the previous Education Secretary Nicky Morgan who stated that “I do worry that a return to more selection risks undermining the progress that we have seen over the course of the last decades in our schools.”

As stated by many working in education and within the Labour Party as well as the wider community, it is so depressing that in 2017 Britain we are still having this discussion on grammars. Much good work has been done to raise standards, to raise levels of aspiration and to support students from a wide range of backgrounds and all under the umbrella of comprehensive education. To continue to tinker with the lives of children and young people in this way is taking enormous risks with a system which is working well.

The Prime Minister claims to have the interests of all at heart in her supposed concern for those who are at a disadvantage in society. A return to selection, be it partial or full, will do very little to make a positive difference to inequality. We call upon her and her government to engage in a debate on social mobility to be changed from one about ‘plucking the lucky few’ to ‘lifting the many’. Our Windsor schools alongside many others are doing just that. Let them get on with the job.

Yours

Margery Thorogood

Windsor Labour Party Press Officer