Your dogma, my principles.

Simplex and Sapiens are discussing the government’s plan to open more selective schools.

Simplex: Our mission is to build a country that works for everyone.

Sapiens: Sounds like a good starting point.

Sim: Yes, it’s a vision of a truly meritocratic Britain that puts the interests of ordinary working class people first.

Sap: Very egalitarian principles.

Sim: Absolutely. People worry that the changing world around them means that their children and grandchildren won’t have the same opportunities they have enjoyed in life. We need to ask some searching questions about what kind of country we want to be.

Sap: Indeed, there’s no doubt we live in a very unequal society.

Sim: We want Britain to be a country where everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their talent and their hard work will allow, a place where advantage is based on merit not privilege; where it is your talent and hard work that matter. We need to ensure that there is a good school place for every child, education provision that caters to the individual needs and abilities of every pupil.

Sap: So I guess that means investing in improving all our comprehensive schools.

Sim: Well, not exactly. Politicians have for years put their own dogma and ideology before the interests and concerns of ordinary people. In fact, we know that grammar schools are hugely popular with parents. And we know that they want to expand. They provide a stretching education for the most academically able, regardless of their background, and they deliver outstanding results.

Sap: This is starting to sound a bit like dogma. There’s no evidence that selection improves standards for all, quite the opposite in fact.

Sim: We help no one by saying to parents who want a selective education for their child that we won’t let them have it.

Sap: But ‘wanting a selective education for their child’ means denying it to the children of others. I thought we agreed on the universal, egalitarian principle of good schools for everyone.

Sim: We mustn’t be dogmatic about that. I know there are those who fear this could lead to the return of a binary system as we had in the past with secondary moderns. But this fear is unfounded; there will be no return to secondary moderns.

Sap: Sorry? How can we have grammars without secondary moderns? Selection is binary; you either pass or fail the test. This feels like a return to the 1950s.

Sim: You’re just being blinkered and dogmatic. It is not a proposal to go back to the 1950s. We don’t want to go back to a binary model of grammars and secondary moderns but to build on our increasingly diverse schools system. We should focus on the new grammars of the future.

Sap: I’m not sure it’s me being blinkered and dogmatic…

See also:

Arguments against selection

Sapiens and Simplex have also discussed:

Labour pains

Exam success boost to the economy

The ‘forgotten 50%


About Eddie Playfair

I am a Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) having previously been a college principal for 16 years and a teacher before that. I live in East London and I blog in a personal capacity about education and culture. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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