DEBATE: Will expanding grammar schools improve social mobility?

Admission into these schools is meant to be based on academic merit (Source: Getty)

Will expanding grammar schools improve social mobility?

Gareth Bacon, member of the London Assembly and head of the GLA Conservatives, says YES.

I went to a comprehensive school and saw first-hand the failings that occur when children of mixed ability are educated together. Too often there is a levelling down of standards and outcomes, and children with the ability to excel are overlooked and fail to achieve their potential.

Grammar schools play a vital role in reducing inequality for our children, as the competitive nature inspires young people to discover their full potential. As admission into these schools is based on academic merit, any talented child who tries hard has the chance to succeed. Better yet, this is an opportunity open to everyone, regardless of background.

Of course, there are many successful people who were educated in comprehensive schools, but those who oppose the expansion of grammar schools intend to hold back talented pupils, largely for the sake of ideology.

By giving children from less affluent homes opportunities they might not otherwise have had, grammar schools increase social mobility. Expansion should absolutely be encouraged.

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Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, says NO.

Grammar schools do not improve social mobility. There has long been consensus on this fact across the political spectrum. From Anthony Crosland to even Margaret Thatcher, nearly half a century of education secretaries agreed that more selection was not the way forward.

But the current education secretary has decided to avoid every piece of evidence that exists on this issue. He is ignoring his own Department’s findings that there are nearly 18 times more children from families with above average incomes at selective schools than there are children eligible for free school meals.

It’s a divisive policy which segregates our kids, selecting the most privileged, not the most capable, without a shred of evidence to suggest that it will improve social mobility.

The Tories’ handout to a handful of grammar schools does nothing to address their devastating cuts to comprehensives across the country. Labour will give all schools the investment they need, not just a select few, ensuring all children receive high quality education.

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