“There is repeated evidence that any appearance of advantage for those attending selective schools is outweighed by the disadvantage for those who do not”

Professor Stephen Gorard of Durham University.

I have been reading Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes recently. Two innocent boys explore a dark carnival that comes to town. The promise of dreams fulfilled eventually turning in to a fight against the many powers of darkness; a book of good and evil. It is full of amazing prose and as I was reading it I kept thinking about the sinister underbelly of the educational politics we face right now. How we are continually lied to and led to believe that the actions of others are for our good when they are in fact putting us at greater risk. The promise of something on the horizon but when we see it up close we realise it is not good for us at all.

“My name is Dark.”

The government seem to have found some money for education this week. Surprising really, considering that as a headteacher all I am dealing with is how to effectively run a school with less and less money whilst meeting the demands of higher and higher educational standards. I feel my blood boiling as I listen to ministers ignore the reality of what they are doing, pushing their fingers in to their ears shouting, “La La La!”.

When the Education Policy Institute published research that showed that the tiny (and it is tiny) benefits in grades from pupils at Grammar schools are weighed against the impact it has on the area for the majority, it is clear that grammar schools come across as counterproductive and the majority suffer for the minority – a selective minority. We have a government who are doing things to education with no support from the community of schools and no evidence to back it up and yet they are not slowing down or even listening. It would seem that the government are trying to appeal to the ‘ordinary working class families’ with promises wrapped up in lies… The prime minister has been clear that “…we need to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

But adds

“Every child should be allowed to rise as far as their talents will take them and birth should never be a barrier.”

Grammar schools seem to be her answer. Schools that work for politicians; schools that work for those that want them; schools that are selective and so divisive;

I left school with no qualifications. I grew up on an estate and am proud of my working class roots. I would have never made a selective school but I managed to take control of my life and am now an experienced head teacher. I got here because of the care and investment of people. It was an Access course at Bridgwater College that started me on my journey aged 22 and lost in terms of what I was doing.  I imagine that as we create this divided at 11 selective school system (With no actual evidence of success) there will be less and less opportunity for those who do not make the cut. I see no answers from our government about how they are going to support and develop education for the masses; the majority of children who go to state schools. All I see is a narrowing and a selective approach. This is not building a country that works for everyone. State schools are haemorrhaging funds and the atmosphere is getting darker and more sinister. For Justine Greening being heckled at a conference is only the beginning. It is clear that the majority of education professionals are accelerating further away from our ministers in terms of educational policy. I no longer have confidence in them to champion the best in our education system.

I visited two E-act academies this week both in the most deprived areas of Bristol (70% plus Pupil Premium) with some of the highest outcomes in the country… on this standing they would all be eligible for the 11 plus and none of the children from the less high achieving middle class schools would get in? The only way you will make it in is to pay for extra tuition to get you through… oh the business opportunities! I wonder how many organisations will be touting the promise ‘our tutoring is focused upon getting you through the entrance exam’. But will the majority of children in deprived areas who are achieving above their peers from affluent areas all get in? Well, lets wait and see but there is NO evidence that Grammar Schools are good for the children coming from deprived areas.

“You went to the grammar? Clearly you had a better education then…”

We should not be creating systems of inequality but working at our systems of equal opportunity. I would love a FOI request to see how many of those involved with this policy had a state education? We seem to be creating policy that the vast majority of the professionals within are fundamentally opposed to – so who is creating this? The phrase, “Something wicked this way comes” was first uttered by the witches in Macbeth. Maybe this is how policy is written in 2017?

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