Bill offers chance to end selection

17th March 2006 at 00:00
As your reporter implies ("Blair seeks his defining moment", TES, March 3) there are few issues that unite the teaching profession (from teaching assistants to heads) more than support for comprehensive education.

This is why the new education Bill is important and raises strong emotional reactions among the profession.

For many teachers the key question is simple: will the Bill help in securing both equity and excellence, will it secure equality of opportunity and equality of access to all state-funded schools?

However, it could just be that Blair's defining moment could end up surprising everyone - ending academic selection in England. I believe that there would be overwhelming support in the parliamentary Labour party for an amendment that would put an end to selection by academic ability at the age of 11 once and for all.

If ending selection is good for the pupils of Northern Ireland and, indeed, Scotland and Wales, why will it not be good for the pupils of England?

Don't misunderstand me. Like Tony Blair, I do not want to close the existing grammar schools. In a post selective system the remaining 164 grammar schools that exist in England would remain pretty much as they are now. They would have the same buildings, the same headteachers and staff, the same resources, largely the same curriculum, probably the uniform and largely the same funding.

The only significant change will be in the academic profile of the pupils on entry.

Selective schools do not create choice in a diverse system, rather they deny and prevent 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 new Bill offers the opportunity to end selection by both ability and aptitude for good.

Who knows, perhaps it will be a case of third term lucky?

Mike Ion

Comprehensive Future

24 Sulby Drive



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