I wrote yesterday about the difficulties awaiting Justine Greening in crafting a grammar school selection policy that secures sufficient popular support. To assuage critics of the idea, she feels the need to introduce some positive discrimination for children from poorer backgrounds, but in doing so she risks aggravating those who support grammar schools but fear they will be discriminated against.
You couldn’t ask for a much neater demonstration of this risk than today’s newspaper editorials.
Here’s The Sun, which thinks she is on the right track but calls for bigger quotas:
‘The Sun is all for excellent new grammars that aren’t just a means for well-heeled parents to dodge private school fees. So Justine Greening’s plan for each to take a quota of kids from “just about managing” families is right. We’re not sure a third is enough.’
Here’s the Daily Mail‘s leader, which acknowledges the case but has some concerns about the impact on middle class pupils:
‘Yes, as Miss Greening insists, grammars can and should do more to help the poorest pupils secure a place. As the Mail has long argued, it is children from deprived backgrounds, whose parents cannot buy their way into the ever smaller catchment areas of good comprehensives, who stand to benefit most. But in an ideal world, why shouldn’t bright, middle-class children also have a first-rate education?’
And here’s the Daily Telegraph‘s editorial, which criticises the measure as a muddled attack on school freedom which will defeat the very point of selection:
‘Opening more grammar schools is popular because it helps the talented, regardless of their background, get ahead. It is a meritocratic idea. The Tories, however, seem determined to turn it into an egalitarian one by forcing grammars to put certain social groups first. The result may turn out to be messy and counter-productive.’
There’s obviously no way to satisfy all three positions – and these, we must remember, are the supporters of the idea. Greening may find her friends are as much of a challenge as her enemies.