With the Conservatives now convinced that grammar schools are bad for Britain and with the nation about to have a new Prime Minister in need of some passion-rousing policies that will unite his movement’s natural supporters and signal a shift towards a more radical and egalitarian agenda, are we nearing the time when selection by ability will finally be abolished for good? Almost all of the main political parties in Britain now agree that getting rid of selection in England’s schools (there is no selection in Wales or Scotland and it is on the way out in Northern Ireland) would produce an immediate improvement in the overall exam performance of the nation’s children, reduce poverty and inequality in many of our most deprived inner-city areas and overtly and transparently attack privilege that all too often masquerades as excellence. However it is important to emphasise that it is selection that needs to be got rid of, no one is suggesting that particular schools should be closed. There is no reason why the remaining 164 grammar schools themselves should not remain pretty much as they are now. They would have the same buildings, the same governors, the same headteachers and staff, the same resources, the same curriculum, uniform and largely the same funding. The only real change will be in the academic profile of the pupils attending the school.
A selective system of schooling does not lead to diversity of provision it simply leads to division. Selection is not the creation of choice rather it is the denial of choice for the many. A selective system (be it based on ability or aptitude) does not help promote a diverse system of schooling; it simply helps perpetuate division in society as a whole. Selective schools are not escape routes from poverty, they do not offer good value for money and they do not help raise standards overall? The Tories do not want a return to selection and the Lib Dems are opposed in principle. This is why a Brown led Government should seek to end selection in the state sector once and for all.