Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education, welcomes the reignition of the grammar school debate by David Davis.
Tim Montgomerie has already covered last week's Spectator debate on grammar schools, so sorry to harp on. But it exposed yet again a festering sore in the Conservative Party that will not go away. It's
not just about whether or not we should have more grammar schools. It's also about preserving those we still have: 164 in England and 69 in Northern Ireland.
Like them or not, they are excellent schools and extremely popular. Yet all 69 in Northern Ireland and perhaps 1 in 4 of those in England are under some form of threat from socialist ideologues – thanks, in part, to the Conservative leadership's lack of support (see for example, www.savestbernards.co.uk ) The socialists' behaviour is normal. But why should they be allowed to take advantage of lukewarm Conservatives who offer an open goal to the enemies of good schools bent on undermining or destroying them as soon as possible?
Last Wednesday, the Daily Mail carried a marvellous article by Andrea Kon. And David Davis had his own persuasive piece in the Mail on Sunday. Simon Heffer and Peter Hitchens made their views plain. The Sunday Express reported hard news of the dirty tricks being used.
All this, along with the baggage about 'toffs' that usually accompanies it, is damaging the Conservative Party.
It's not just the 'more mature' members of the Party who are pig sick. One of the most striking aspects of the Spectator debate was the large number of young people present – and supporting grammar schools.
And please can we demolish, once and for all, an oft-repeated piece of socialist propaganda: that other types of school cannot succeed if nearby grammar schools cream off the brightest pupils. Even in the few areas of the country where secondary modern schools remain, many of them produce better exam results than all-ability comprehensive schools, as Graham Brady regularly points out. A major piece of recent research, Evidence on the effects of selective educational systems by Robert Coe et al, CEM Centre, Durham University, October 2008 (www.cemcentre.org) is unambiguous:
"We have …failed to find any evidence of collateral harm to any other schools, arising from the existence of grammar schools. Overall, schools are just as likely to be performing well, whether or not they are ‘creamed’ by a grammar school."
Surely, only those with totalitarian tendencies want only one type of school? Free spirits support genuine choice, whether its grammar, technical, modern, comprehensive, single-sex, co-educational, faith, secular – or 'progressive' for the few who prefer that. Suggestions that Conservative policy may change after they are elected will not do. Who in his or her right mind would now trust any politician? Sorry, please pull the other one!
Those who want to help may like to visit www.ngsa.org.uk – and perhaps join up? Note for totalitarians: are you sure you’re in the right place?