On the one hand we were told the Government are proposing to allocate £60m pa to support grammar school expansion. On the other hand there is no extra money so far to help resolve the crisis in funding for West Sussex Schools, despite everything that head teachers, West Sussex County Council, and West Sussex MPs have said and done to draw attention to the massive problem that our schools face, with all that that means for our pupils.
The move to expand grammar schools is surely the least important priority for education at the moment, and, even when one considers the school buildings in this part of West Sussex are not designed for the return to a selective system, selection is any case wrong in principle.
Selection at age 11 has long been known to be too early. It is very questionable if results are in fact any better.
In their recent consultation document the DfE said nationally grammar schools achieve a 96.7 per cent good GCSE pass – so they should when they have about the top 30 per cent of the ability range. The same source quotes non-selective schools as achieving 56.7 per cent, which arguably is far more impressive when they are going more than twice as far down the ability range.
People of my age will remember all too well the harm done to some people by rejection at age 11, and it is widely held too that grammar school selection includes an element of social selection.
One wonders too what will be the impact on the quality of education for those who are not selected. To describe this selective policy as damagingly reactionary is an understatement.
Any moneys available should go to present schools; indeed if the Government really wants state education to succeed and standards to be raised, it should be a high priority to make all the necessary funding available – they cannot expect standards to rise while cutting back on staffing and other resources.
Heads are united in spelling out the extent of the problems and individual schools are anticipating six figure deficits; the possibility of a four day week for our pupils has been mooted; there are further imminent pressures on school budgets and the wider education service to the extent the Institute of Fiscal Studies has predicted an eight per cent fall in real terms for West Sussex schools between 2015 and 2020 – all of this means an intolerable crisis for our schools and their pupils, and speed to resolve this should be the highest educational priority for any civilised Government.
Maplehurst Road, Chichester