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On the naughty step - Conduct that deserves a ticking off

This week: grammar school bores

Ah, there it is again. The so-called grammar school question. Rarely does an area of debate garnish our newspapers with such nonsense.

Reignited by Kent County Council's decision last week to approve a new satellite grammar in Sevenoaks, the discussion about 11-plus selection didn't let us down. It gave ill-informed hacks the green light to roll out some classic old broad-brush statements.

For example, one senior public policy journalist at The Telegraph blogged: "Grammars were an engine of social improvement, enabling bright children from poorer backgrounds to get to the best universities, and then move up the ladder to become part of Britain's elite."

Um, no they weren't. Year after year, research proves otherwise. In 1959, for example, grammar school pupils represented the brightest fifth of their age group, yet nearly 40 per cent failed to pass more than three O-levels and less than 15 per cent of the "B" and "C" streams (still the equivalent of today's top comprehensive sets) passed five O-levels. Indeed, no metric of social mobility suggests grammar schools were anything but colonised by the middle classes.

The flip-side is that those normally found on the Left - Fiona Millar (pictured), we're looking at you - do themselves and their progressive allies no favours by characterising existing grammar schools and those who teach in them as evil. They are not. These schools are populated by teachers trying to do the best for their pupils.

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