Last month, I was invited to take part in a debate hosted by the Durham Union Society on the topic of grammar schools.
The motion was “this House would allow the establishment of new grammar schools” and I found it very interesting that I was speaking against the motion alongside Lord Kenneth Baker. Lord Baker is a former Conservative MP and was the Secretary of State for Education in the years 1986-1989. Although we may have different reasons for opposing the establishment of new grammar schools, we both understand that they are not the best way to tackle some of the problems which currently exist within our education system.
We were up against some tough competition from those in favour of the motion; William Wragg MP, the Conservative MP for Hazel Grove, who currently sits on the Education Select Committee and Paul Buckland, who is the Headmaster of the only grammar school in the North East and Cumbria, Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Penrith.
Unfortunately, despite my best efforts to prove that grammar schools are socially divisive and so are not the most effective way to address social mobility, the result of the debate was very close. In the end, we won the debate but this was by two votes; 87 votes to 85.
Although I am pleased that we won, this was only a small victory in the wider grammar school debate. The close result in this instance shows how vital it is that we do more to show how the Government’s plans to establish new selective schools and to allow non-selective schools to introduce a selective admissions process will only benefit the few and could lead to further educational inequality.
Rather than reintroducing grammar schools, our priority should be on improving existing comprehensive schools instead. We need to step away from these out of date ideas about grammar schools and improve the education system for all by making sure that existing schools are adequately resourced and that both pupils and teachers are sufficiently supported.