Socialist Worker

Theresa May's grammar schools will write working class children off as failures

Issue No. 2516

Theresa May

Theresa May

The Tories could open new grammar schools. The right wing press eagerly explained that this is part of Theresa May’s drive to boost “social mobility”.

The Daily Mail newspaper reported that grammars have a “higher proportion of pupils from ethnic minorities than the average secondary school”.

The difference is small—just 6 percent. And it compares things of vastly different scales.

There are just 163 grammars in England teaching around 164,000 children.

By contrast, 3,401 state-funded secondary schools in England teach 3,193,420 children.

The article aimed to imply that grammars help overcome disadvantage. This sleight of hand is required because they do precisely the opposite.

Grammar schools entrench inequality. Children have to “pass” a test to get into them—those who “fail” to go lower-status, lower-funded secondary moderns.

Much is made of the few working class people who pass the test. But the vast majority of those in grammars still come from wealthier backgrounds.

Grammars aren’t about helping the “brightest” working class children. They write off millions of working class children as failures.

Campaigners rightly fought for comprehensive education and to push back elitist grammars.

As with academies, the Tories use the spin of “helping the disadvantaged” to try and make our education system more divisive. We shouldn’t fall for it.

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