New Labour is to pour public money into grammar schools in a move that John Major's Tory government would have been proud of. The government's schools minister Stephen Timms made the announcement last Sunday.
It blows apart the claims by some apologists for the government that it has recently been moving in a more 'Old Labour' direction. Grammar schools, with pupils selected by the 11-plus, are the hallmark of the kind of divisive education system previous Labour governments have set out to oppose.
New Labour made it virtually impossible for parents to vote to end selection in local areas in its first term of office. Now it is to hand half a million pounds to entrench grammar schools as part of a 'partnership scheme' with local secondary schools. Timms said, 'We now have a mature understanding of the benefits of a diverse system.'
'Diversity' through selection means underfunded secondary modern schools alongside grammars, which draw children mainly from better off families. Margaret Tulloch of the Campaign for State Education says:
'It would have been far better to have spent £500,000 on the sort of research and review they carried out in Northern Ireland on the effect of selection on young children, which as a result called for the ending of the 11-plus. That would be a better use of public money than papering over the cracks of a discredited system.'