‘I suffered a grammar school education. As a headteacher, I know it is not what we should want for our children’

20th November 2016 at 14:01
Colin Harris didn't like grammar school
We are witnessing education policy based on popularity at the ballot box and it is a disaster for our pupils, writes a leading educationalist

The old adage, "it didn't do me any harm", is often deployed by those who attended grammar schools.

Not me. I am one of those old enough to have suffered – and I do mean suffer – a grammar school education.

I was the council-estate boy who was thrust into a grammar school trying to be a public school with its undertones of military ethos, all spiced up by regular doses of corporal punishment.

The education itself was constricted by academic content and damaged by a hierarchical philosophy in which the best knew they were the best and the others were allowed to drift downwards. I remember often being told: "Harris, you should have gone to the comprehensive."

Is this what we want in 2016? No.

The arguments are known by us all. Social inclusion will once again be pushed aside in the clamour for academic excellence. Poor students won't get a look in. The local education community will also be hit; we can guess where the best resources will go.

Parents will do whatever they can to secure their child a place. Cramming in primary schools will become as common as it is in China and Japan. Imagine also the number of complaints and appeals about the testing regime. Is this truly what our education system needs at the moment? We've got enough problems with testing...

Grammar schools will in large part be deemed outstanding by Ofsted because they use a system based on precious little more than results. This, in turn, will perpetuate the myth that more grammar schools are what is needed.

This is not good enough. Our children deserve to be served by a government that cares for all pupils – where they are all treated as equals, where schools are not compared with one another in crude league tables, and where funding is appropriate to the needs of the school.

Once again we have a policy that doesn't take in the views of the educationalists. The real reason for Theresa May’s grammar school policy? Votes at the ballot box. Is this any way to run an education system?

Colin Harris is a former primary head who is now supporting teachers and headteachers

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