Later today we’ll be inviting you to answer February’s set of ConservativeHome Members’ Panel questions. Today and every day this week we’ll be printing some of the most interesting comments that respondents made to January’s survey. Today we’re printing ten of your anonymous thoughts on Grammar Schools. Tomorrow they will be about the A list. On Saturday we’ll publish the full one thousand or so comments.
1. I was brought up in a single parent family. My mother worked full time, but we were very poor and living in rented accommodation. Luckily for me I passed the 11 plus and went to a very good grammar school. Unfortunately, because of successive governments neither of my children had the same chance. They had to go to comprehensive schools. Grammar schools are the best chance that poor children have of getting a good education, and I am disgusted that David Cameron has seen fit to ditch the Conservatives support of Grammar schools.
2. I am distraught about Mr Cameron making a U-Turn on our selective education policy. He made very clear commitments to retain selection in his campaign, and has clearly not been truthful in his intention. Selection on ability is a core value of Conservatism, Mr Cameron in moving to the middle ground is prostituting our values in favour of Liberalism.
3. I am amazed, and delighted, as each new policy is announced, how
close they are to my own thinking. The exception is the policy on
Grammar Schools. Living in a county which has retained many of its
Grammar Schools, and being part of a large family most of whom were
educated in Grammar Schools may well have coloured my opinion.
4. I am particularly disappointed at Cameron’s policy on Grammar
Schools. Comprehensive Schools have been (as many of us predicted) a
disaster for this country. I want a leader of the Conservative Party
who will argue again and again for selection in education and make the
case for Grammar Schools, not abandon them. I didn’t want Cameron and
so far most of his comments have reinforced my negative opinion of him.
5. My son struggled in a state school until he was 13yrs old. He
wanted to learn but was told to occupy himself whilst the teacher spent
time on disruptive boys who did not want to be in class. He felt so let
down as he had hoped that moving from primary to secondary school (one
that was ex grammar) his desire to learn would be fuelled – instead it
was slowly being dampened. Peer pressure connected learning with being
a ‘nerd’ and during a maths exam he was beaten up and the school had to
call me in (the teacher had left the room to attend to a fight
outside). At my wits end we approached potential candidates for all the
main parties for help. It was the Conservatives who came to the rescue
– one who as a young boy had fought and won, against the closing by
Labour of his NW grammar school. He understood that the belief that it
was wrong to hold back bright pupils for the sake of an imagined
equality – this is not elitist but common sense. The academic and
bright seek to express themselves and their aspirations through
learning – this does not mean that all children will evolve into adults
through this route, even for the sake of equality. Other children may
have other talents and drives that although disrupt and hold back in
the classroom can lead them to success. My son got the chance to attend
a brilliant school that encourages learning and in his GCSEs achieved 9
A*s and 1 A – his aim is to read physics at Cambridge. His dad is a
manual worker and we live in social housing and yet thanks to the
Conservatives my son has been given a fantastic chance to thrive. This
makes it all the more disappointing that other children from working
class backgrounds who show an eagerness and a capacity to exceed in
academia are now being condemned by the same party to rot in the corner
of a classroom where even if the teachers wanted they have not the time
or resources to stretch a gifted child. I only hope this will evoke
such a backlash that Cameron will be forced to reconsider!
6. I am all in favour of Cameron re-engaging the centre ground. But,
it seems to me that he may have over-shot slightly and landed us to the
left of New Labour. The Grammar schools debacle is what really annoyed
me. I am a One Nation Tory and therefore fairly liberal but this policy
has been one of the perennial favourites of the grassroots and the
electorate. It is, I believe, also fairly centrist. We shouldn’t
abandon all our principles to take the centre-ground as most of them
are centrist already.
7. Grammar schools: I am very pro-grammar but if the idea is to
create a sort of grammar school within the comprehensive via full
streaming; promoting academic competition but with proper vocational
options for the less academic; allowing flexibility in the middle for
late developers; and avoiding the stigma of secondary moderns – good!
8. Ansa retired teacher I feel very strongly that David Cameron will
alienate vast numbers of grammar-school-educated middle class voters if
he attacks the system which has enabled thousands of children to gain a
first-class academic education without having to pay exorbitant school
fees. I went to Blackpool and admire his energy and enthusiasm but he
MUST NOT imitate Blair by appearing to pull up the ladder after he has
been well-educated himself.
9. I am very afraid of further diminishing the role of local
politics by further centralisation of decision making. Why not allow
counties to decide whether to keep or re-introduce grammar schools? Why
not move to locally elected heads of police boards? If we then get wide
disparities in performance then we can make informed choices about the
best way forward.
10. I still think the Conservative Party should be about freedom
from the state. Freedom to succeed as well as fail. Freedom to decide
one’s own priorities about education and health. Grammar schools and
the Assisted Places scheme helped my family’s social mobility – I wish
the same opportunities were now open to others.