Grammars aren't upwardly mobile

10th July 2009 at 01:00

It is not unusual to see sincerity outstripping thought in educational debate, but when Gerard Kelly wrote in his editorial that "snobbery rather than academic achievement" accounts for the low numbers of working-class children attending grammar schools, he hit the nail on the head ("Grammars did precious little to aid social mobility", July 3).

However, if we are looking for a truly effective instrument of social mobility, we would do well to consider the understated contribution made by FE colleges.

I am shortly to retire as the assistant principal of a college that demonstrates daily that excellence and inclusivity are by no means mutually exclusive. Last week, a 29-year-old single mother of three from the local housing estate completed her beauty therapy qualification and has, as she put it, turned her life around. At our classics day recently, I was talking to a former postman in his early twenties who is completing his A-levels before taking up a place at Balliol.

Many of our students from disadvantaged backgrounds progress to the best universities. Yet, where in the larger public arena is this celebrated or debated? Far better, isn't it, to bang on about the remaining 164 grammar schools?

Rob Roberts, Southsea, Hampshire.

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