….really was the British equivalent of the Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic of China – an act of institutionalised vandalism, all done in the name of equality. Crosland, the archetype Bollinger Bolshevik, wanted to exterminate grammar schools because they are elitist. He laid the foundations for our post-meritocracy. The grammar schools were the best mechanism for social mobility that this country ever had. The Labour Party burned that ladder and, terrified of seeming elitist, no subsequent government – Labour or Tory – has tried to restore it.
This argument is based on the co-incidence of the comprehensivisation of secondary education with a drop in intergenerational mobility. But this is correlation not causation. The two factors appear to be unrelated. We can tell this because grammar schools were abolished in different localities at different times, therefore academic research can unpick the relationship:
Children are no worse off in socio-economic terms if they go to a comprehensive rather than to schools in the selective system, according to new research. The study found that when the total cohort of children was taken into account those who went to comprehensive schools were not disadvantaged in terms of social mobility compared to those who attended grammar schools and secondary moderns.
Rather what happened was that the expansion in the number of management and professional jobs stopped.
And to be clear modern grammar schools perform no better than their historic counterparts: they take very few pupils from deprived backgrounds and where they still exist students from poorer backgrounds under-perform relative to the rest of the country.
In short, the right’s panacea for stalled social mobility would seem likely to make things worse.