Socialist Worker

Tories’ £50 million grammar school scam to entrench class division

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2604

Grammar schools have elitism at their heart

Grammar schools have elitism at their heart

The Tories have unveiled plans to hand selective grammar schools £50 million—while slashing funding for state schools. The news has infuriated teachers, parents and education campaigners.

Jess is a teacher and member of the national executive committee of the NEU union (NUT section) for inner London. She told Socialist Worker, “At a time when the government is making the worst cuts to education, they are finding the money for this?

“All those with an interest in education must unite to put up the biggest opposition possible to this disgusting new Tory policy.”

Theresa May was forced to abandon plans for new grammar schools after the Tories flopped in last year’s general election. They know selective education is unpopular—so they are trying to repackage grammars as good for disadvantaged children.

But the figures show the reality. Just 2.6 percent of grammar school pupils received free school meals in March last year, compared to 14.1 percent across all school types.

Jess said, “The notion that the expansion of grammar schools can do anything to improve the life chances of working class children is a lie.

“Grammar schools have always been a stain on our education system. Selective schools paint children as successes or failures at age 11. Many who failed the 11+ under the old system still bear the emotional scars.

“Selection has no part to play in any decent education system based on ideals of social justice.”

Rob, who took his 11+ in 1966, told Socialist Worker, “I remember the humiliation of eleven-plus failure. 

“And although some of us overcame it, many of my mates reacted with contempt at the thought of academic study and lack of self belief. 

“By the way, they didn’t provide a better education, they just selected those most likely to succeed regardless.” 


Grammatical terror - dont roll back the clock on education
Grammatical terror - don't roll back the clock on education
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Grammars aren’t about improving social mobility—instead they entrench social division. Nicola passed the 11+ under the old system and went to a grammar school.

“I attended from 1971 to 1978—a time of many high points in workers’ struggle,” she told Socialist Worker. “We were kept completely ignorant.

“We were taught to disdain strikes as disruptive, laugh at peace protesters, and sneer at men with long hair and feminists. We were told Thatcher was good because she was Christian. Anyone with an Irish accent was suspected of being a terrorist and homophobia was the norm.”

There are just 163 grammar schools in England, giving each an average of just over £300,000 of the new Tory windfall. Meanwhile government funding cuts have snatched £2.8 billion from school budgets since 2015.

Schools are likely to suffer a real terms cut of around 6.5 percent between 2010-11 and 2019-20— the biggest real terms cut for 30 years. And the poorest schools are being hardest hit.

Grammars aren’t about improving education for the majority or giving more opportunities to disadvantaged children. Instead they promote the idea that children should receive different kinds of education based on their background.

Nicola said, “When I went to grammar school, we lived in a town with a relatively large African-Caribbean and Asian population. But the whole time I was there I remember about six BME students.

“Grammar schools are designed for division. We should oppose them forever.”

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