Socialist Worker

LETTERS: I worked in a grammar school - they don’t help the poorest

Issue No. 2523

Theresa Mays grammar school

Theresa May says grammar schools can offer a better education to pupils whose parents cannot afford private education.

But grammar schools lower the standard of education overall and don’t solve any of the issues May claims they do.

May says we currently have a system of “selection by house price”. However, house prices go up significantly when they are in the catchment area for grammar schools.

Most of those who pass the 11-plus have accessed rigorous, expensive private tutoring.

The state boarding grammar where I worked is an example.

It seemed like a good model for local working class kids. Wealthy families pay for facilities and extra-curricular opportunities, while working class boys and girls get access to an almost private standard of education.

In reality the eight-mile catchment is home to three of the county’s best performing prep schools.

It’s not hard to guess who gets the highest scores on the entrance tests each year.

The return of grammar schools disguises a break for the rich as an opportunity for the poor.

And it would complete the move towards performance related pay (PRP) for teachers.

Grammar schools and PRP prioritise results above anything else. They are the perfect ideological allies.

Yet research shows that performance linked pay doesn’t motivate the workforce.

We already have a teaching crisis in Kent. It is no coincidence that this is one of the counties that held onto grammar schools.

Kent Messenger newspaper recently published statistics suggesting that as many as 49 schools in Kent were without headmasters as of 17 September.

NUT union regional secretary John Walder said the pressure of league tables and results played a huge role in this crisis.

The idea that grammar schools are the answer is laughable.

Freddie Hulbert, Kent

Say no to selection in schools

My brother, who had learning difficulties, failed the 11-plus in the 1960s and attended the local secondary modern school. 

He was dumped in the “bottom stream” and basically left to rot.

My parents moved to a neighbouring authority where he went to the comprehensive.

There he received support, gained CSE qualifications and then got on an apprenticeship scheme leading to a career as an electrician.

I passed the 11-plus to go to grammar school. It was girls only and very academic.

Facilities for subjects considered suitable for boys, such as woodwork, metalwork, even physics, were non-existent.

Subjects that I would have found interesting, such as sociology, economics and politics, were not available.

Non-academic subjects, such as art or needlework were not treated seriously.

While I no doubt did benefit from the education offered, it was narrow.

And I regretted not having the connection with the opposite sex enjoyed by comprehensive students.

Theresa May claims that grammar schools of the future will be different.

She says nothing of what might happen to kids like my brother.

However, strait-jacketing and dividing children at 11 will happen, when we should all be together, enjoying as broad and supportive an education as possible.

Anne James, Chesterfield

Junior doctors’ action flags up NHS problems

Read through the letters sections of most newspapers and you are all but guaranteed to see a few letters deriding the junior doctors. There are others who support them.

But what argument is there?

The fact that junior doctors are striking is the biggest pointer that something is cripplingly wrong with where our NHS is heading.

Doctors historically have eschewed industrial action.

They have sworn an oath to save lives—unlike the politicians who ruin them.

Yet they have found it necessary to undertake one of the strongest campaigns of action Britain has seen for a long time.

This shows that their actions are vital. We must join them on picket lines from 5 October and make their fight everyone’s fight.

Jake Elliott, Huddersfield

Privatisations stop operations

Four years ago my privatised health provider refused me an operation for fear its failure would compromise its figures.

I told my GP this, who said I was being “cynical”.

The GP swanned off to the area Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). In practice CCG means Cuts Coming Guaranteed.

Nigel Coward, West London

Fighting the fascist threat in France

Christine Delphy is right to blame right wing French politicians for Islamophobia (Socialist Worker, 14 September).

The left in France is in disarray on how to resist Islamophobia. For some the issue doesn’t exist.

Others blame Muslims for not accepting the values of the French republic.

In France there are many local initiatives, such as the numerous groups that provide support for those in the Calais jungle.

Le Pen’s fascist Front National and mainstream candidates will ramp up racism in next year’s presidential election.

Pulling the initiatives into a national movement is of pressing urgency.

Mike Healy, Charente, France

The TUC is wrong about airport expansion

It’s not only nuclear power that some unions are wrong on (Socialist Worker, 21 September).

A climate motion was voted down at TUC conference after some argued airport expansion was good for jobs.

Liz Ryan, West London

Defend Brazil's Lula against the elites

There is an international campaign in defence of ex leader of Brazil, president Lula.

Lula is one of the most important left wing leaders in the world.

The Brazilian elites cannot accept the support for him.

Please show your support for him at

Sara Vivacqua, by email

Miliband’s in a glass house

David Miliband said Jeremy Corbyn has made the Labour Party unelectable.

This from the man who failed even to be elected leader!

Alan Whyte, Gateshead

The system fails young people

Capitalism is destroying young people’s self esteem.

The Young Women’s Trust charity said young people lack confidence and fear for the future.

Many live with parents because they can’t find a job or don’t earn much.

It’s awful that people blame themselves for this when it’s the system that is at fault.

Laura Allen, Bradford

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