THE SUNDAY ESSAY: a divided Britain, as seen through the medium of May’s Grammar Schools project

Mesnip29616 The last thing properly constituted Grammar schools will inhibit is genuine, positive social mobility. It is the poisonous ideologies of our many Establishments that are the inhibiting factors here: chiefly, a Tory clique that thinks money must be involved in provision; and a bourgeois Labour insistence on zero tolerance of differing individual metiers. As usual, the sterile debate involves regressive ideology rather than empirical philosophy.

I’ve been wracking my brains over the last two days trying to remember when Grammar Schools became something alleged to inhibit social mobility. I can certainly remember them being faded out by Labour after 1964. I also have vivid memories of going down the list of all those most keen to do it – Benn, Crosland, Crossman and so forth – and realising they were all guilt-suffused public schoolboys. (For the benefit of American Sloggers, I should point out that public schools are in fact ‘preppy’ private schools, and Grammar schools were free State-funded institutions. It’s another example of the ruling class in Britain trying to hide their privilege behind misleading terms like ‘middle class’).

I just don’t remember anyone of sound mind in the early 1960s suggesting that the Grammars inhibited social mobility. The main argument against the Grammar schools at the time was that competitive selection to ‘discriminate against’ the less bright kids was morally wrong, and that a flat-ability, non-streamed system would be both fairer and raise the standards of the kids with lower IQs and/or less educational aspiration.

Nobody was silly enough to suggest that such schools inhibited social mobility because – especially to Labour thinkers themselves – it was glaringly obvious that they had massively increased it. For the first time ever, lower-middle and working class kids like me got – absolutely free – a better education than that available in fee-paying schools….and above all, access to top-notch further education designed to train teachers, professionals and management at TTCs and Universities.

Political theologians who have re-written the history of those times would have today’s electorate believe that a new élite was created by the ’11+’ competitive examination system, and those who failed were tossed “on the scrapheap” – a favourite phrase of Barbara Castle at the time. That is utter tosh.

I was the first person – ever, in seven generations of family history I’ve traced – to go to University and get a good Honours degree. My brother failed the 11+, and went to a technical college to read science subjects: he then went on to University and got a chemistry degree, winding up a leading exporter of water treatment expertise to the US. Other kids went to so-called ‘Secondary Modern schools’ (an unfortunate choice of name I admit, but those were less obsessively sensitive times) and learned trades like woodwork, metal design, plumbing and electronics. Scrapheap? Are you being serious? If we had kept those schools, every technical tradesman today would’ve been born in Britain, not imported. And they would all have a fat living, and not be suffering under the disgraceful Long-term unemployed benefit policies of a public school dominated Tory Party.

Of the Beatles, three went to Grammar Schools. So did four of the Stones, David Hockney, Melvyn Bragg, Sir David Attenborough, Michael Portillo, the adorable Joan Bakewell, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett….and that ungrateful little shit, Harold Wilson – the first ever GS Prime Minister. But David Bailey (who is dyslexic) and the late lamented Terence Donovan went to secondary moderns… as did John Major. Almost none of the art directors I worked with in advertising went to public schools, and very few passed the 11+: they mainly took tech/printing/design exams age around 15, and made their way from there.

My point here is very simple: Grammar Schools invaded pursuits formally dominated by rich public schoolboys after 1960 en masse….and 11+ failure did not bar Tech and SecMod kids either. These tiered, State-educated children made the Swinging Sixties: without them, there would have been no Blow-Up, no Mersey Sound, no Carnaby Street, no Julie Christie and Terence Stamp film romances, no Ray Davies songs, no Late Night Line-Up, No Kes, no Wednesday Plays, no Likely Lads. It was an outpouring of hitherto squashed talent – squashed, be in no doubt, by old money – the like of which the 20th century never saw again.

It was, in a nutshell, social mobility – made easier still by free health and a better diet for the lower classes – on a national scale….and it was a resounding success.

This week, Theresa Hail Maysie full of grace has floated her intention to reinvent Grammar Schools. I think that, in most of her thinking, Mother Theresa is an ill person living in a bubble. I don’t mean she has to live in the bubble because she’s ill, I mean she chooses to live in the bubble because she is ill. We are not talking Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell here: this is Theresa May -one sick little bubble-gum girl, and the condition isn’t temporary.

Now as anyone with experience of real life will tell you, the provenance of an idea swiftly decides whether the Establishment is going to like it or not. Or put another way, “Not invented here is and always will be one of the biggest obstacles to progress”.

I’d be willing to bet that, had Pope Sixtus IV up and said one day when he had the Cardinals round for tea and crumpets, “You know, I’ve been thinking, and I suspect this bloke Copper Knickers has a point when he says the Earth goes round the sun” they would most definitely not have put 6tus4 on a bonfire, or even a rack. I mean they just wouldn’t, right?

There’d have been a-murmurin’ and a-mutterin’, the gist of which would’ve been “Sheeeit, this dude’s the Holy See. Whaddayergonna do, burn God’s messenger on Earth? You reckon that’s a good way to get into Heaven, huh? Are you nuts?”

Now, it is a myth that there is only one Establishment in the United Kingdom. Indeed, so infested with establishments is contemporary Britain, it’s getting hard to find the space to be disestablished. Especially if the sign over the door has to say This is the House of Disestablishmentarianism.

There are, in no particular order, the Eton, Oxbridge, politically correct, LGBT, Feminist, Globalist, Blairite, Bennite, Europhile, Brexit, Green, Progressive, Multicultural, Legal, Medical, Architectural, Police, Celebrity Luvvie and Teaching Establishments.

The last of these is the most relevant to this particular subject, albeit far from the most powerful. It is, however, solid Progressive Labour Establishment (PLE)…and thus by far the most vocal in its opposition.

A socialist whom I like a lot for his courage tweeted as follows last Thursday:

“We’re discussing Grammar Schools. What next – hanging?”

I don’t want to fall out with this bloke, because I genuinely believe he’s one of the whitest hat-sporters around…with more balls than most on the Left. But to be blunt, this is an example of the PLE  reacting to utilitarian areas of social policy in a manner utterly removed from any kind of natural way in general, or sane parallel in particular.

It is akin, I’m afraid, to the wild hysteria that greeted the killing of Labour MP Jo Cox…a death at the hands of an English Nationalist loon which the following day had Labour Remaindeer activists yelling “Murderers!” at Brexit campaigners.

It is equally on a par with the ocean of self-pitying undemocratic piffle that followed the result in favour of Brexit. The Leave campaign, we were told, had irrefutably lied; those nasty old people had once again shafted the poor young kids; we had driven Britain over a cliff; the result was invalid; the 48% was right really; disaster was round the corner.

Everything the Remaindeers claimed during the campaign has turned out to be lies. The suppression of eurozone bad news is an established fact. Opposition to the Brexit result is being led by a PR group owned by Blair and Campbell…two men officially reviled by the “new” multifaceted Labour Party.

The simple truths about Grammar Schools are these:

  1. If reintroduced along with FREE scholarships, they would reverse the anti-mobility effects of neoliberal wealth inequalities within a generation. Labour will oppose this because socially mobile electors (they think) will stop voting Labour
  2. As with its narrow definition of ‘equality’ for the sexes, classes and ethnic minorities in Britain (Progressive Labour doesn’t ‘do’ ageism – not sexy enough) so too on education, the PLE simply refuses to grasp the difference between discriminating against a group, and discriminating between abilities
  3. Labour abolished Grammar Schools after 1964 following a naked appeal to the politics of envy as it perceived it. But the perception of envy was the obverse side of a snobbery coin which had by then become the currency of a middle class Labour Establishment  ie, one that looked down upon tradesmen.
  4. Had Grammar Schools been retained, the Labour Party – and the truly élite-dominated new Toryism – would not exist today.

And yet, the Labour-liberal Establishment thinks itself progressive. Whereas in reality – and what a rare-Earth material that is in 2016 – it represents a profoundly regressive catalyst within the rapids driving us at ever-increasing speed over the waterfall.

Now for the payoff ending that should silence the blinkered ideologists who have me labeled as a closet Tory. The chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association, Robert McCartney, had this to say last week:

“[The Government] will have to introduce some conditions that prevent these schools being swamped by families with money.”

He is, of course, absolutely right. “The new Grammar Schools expansion is not a return to the past”, said one unconsciously ironic Conservative MP yesterday. He too is correct – and this is the reason: they will not be free to all those with the necessary ability.

Rewind the tape to a paragraph near the start of this essay, involving the utter estrangement of former Grammar School product Theresa May from her roots….and her self-imposed imprisonment as Daft Bubble Bint. There is no way on Earth that this myopic woman is going to reinstate the Butler/Macleod 1944 blueprint for postwar Grammar Schools – an ideal totally in keeping with the NHS so admired by Labour: free to all those with an obvious right to it.

But what we all need to remember is this: Labour would oppose the idea even if the schools were cost-free for bright kids regardless of background. And the reason they’d give? “It would discriminate against the children of homes with dysfunctional parents”.

Such households existed when I took the 11+. But the level was nowhere near the profusion of them that exists today. And that profusion is the result of mistaken social engineering undertaken by all our myriad Establishments.

Over that 57 year period, we had 28 years of the Tories, 27 of Labour…and 5 of a Coalition including Left-leaning LibDems.

During six decades, all the so-called ‘major’ Parties have initiated and/or collaborated in the creation of a mess.

This is why I am a radical in favour re-forming the Westminster lineup before any constitutional reform is attempted: because doing it the other way round won’t change anything. It will do nothing more than persuade the tunnel-vision ideologists that they have done enough.

We will – non of us – have done enough until they are all gone forever. I retain my long-held view that Barnacle Bill the Failure can only be removed from SS Britannia by starving him of the brine that ensures he stays stuck to the keel, a useless dead weight that slows any real progression into a future for the entire crew. That adhesive brine is called munnneeeee.






48 thoughts on “THE SUNDAY ESSAY: a divided Britain, as seen through the medium of May’s Grammar Schools project

  1. Not often you are wrong John, but John Major attended Cheam Common primary school and then went to Rutlish in Merton, a grammer school.

    Sorry Iain, you’re right….I mixed him up with ‘Lord’ Gould…..JW


  2. In Norway, the so called Socialist exemplar, this is what a 70 year old has to say about what ‘progressive’ education has done for Norwegians.

    “Our education system teaches conformity and compliance. It does not teach critical reasoning, questioning the system or exploring the media’s agenda. When you graduate, you will be unable to take charge and make a decision. (Good decisions always disappoint someone. Otherwise, the choice would not need arbitration in the first place) Instead, you will learn that everyone must be included, finding a compromise. This indoctrination process often leaves your team uncompetitive or product useless, falling short of market demands. It’s more important that everyone is happy than to remain profitable, which ensures long-term enterprise survival. The lack of confidence taught in our education system is crippling. This insecurity makes us somewhat socially retarded with foreigners. When we go abroad, we travel in groups, sticking to ourselves, not interacting with the locals. It may explain our unfriendly ranking.”

    We’re heading in the same direction unless we can find a way to turn our education system around. At least TM is trying to do something rather than sit on the fence about the big issues. By 2020, the electorate should have a clearer view on whether or not she’s worth giving a mandate too. I’m sure she is well aware that 4 years ain’t that long.


  3. I thought that there was an ‘action this day’ emergency to focus every part of Whitehall on making a success of Brexit. How come that a fifty year old philosophical argument on a purely domestic issue suddenly pops out? Sabotage, anyone……

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How education comes to all actually doesn’t bother me!good teachers is what is important not good schools,but i remember Thatcher when challenged on monetary policy & regulations going back to the 1920’/30’s saying today we have the knowledge of what happened then & these good people will not take us back there & make the same mistakes!!! On this observation ,i have no confidence in the Conservatives not to exactly do that with education.
    if it is to be like the £500 democracy tax to keep a system belief going then that would be wrong,but if it did raise standards? then the other downside could be dealt with separately & in other ways?

    Paul – the flaw in your argument is that good schools attract good teachers, and vice versa. Good schools focus on bringing out the strong suit(s) in everyone. JW

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Who will benefit from the return of grammar schools? Overwhelmingly it will be the ‘middle class’, as they are adept at exploring the opportunities that the welfare state provides. The problem of our education system is its failure to engage millions of children of all abilities at the ‘precariat’ end of the social spectrum, who are, apart from the occasional inane soundbite, effectively ignored by politicians and commentators on the left and right of politics. This is not an issue of social mobility for the few, but of social exclusion of the many.

    I covered this point in the essay. That degree of social exclusion didn’t exist in the 1950s, but it WAS created by politicians – first of the Left via dependency, then through the Right by sheer bigotry.
    What I don’t quite get is why ‘the middle class’ so often gets the blame for this outcome.
    Here in France and on holiday I avoid the ‘socially excluded’ like the plague because their behaviour self-excludes them. The children of these feral, opinionated, celeb-obsessed yobs make life well nigh impossible for teachers, I accept that: but the teacher’s job remains the same….to inspire everyone they’re given to teach.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can’t adequately express my dismay at the wrecking of the grammar school system and the destruction of the social mobility that resulted. I came from an upper working class/lower middle class household. I went to grammar school, Cambridge uni, and got a 1st class degree. That is, when I was growing up, if you were intelligent, you could get the best education that money could buy, paid for by the state. And people seem to believe that this did not increase social mobility.

    The thing to remember is that if you are at the top of the heap, the avenues opened by increased social mobility lead only downwards, so there is no incentive for the elite to promote it. A meritocracy might benefit the country as a whole, but some people prefer to be big fish in a small pond.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. John. an error.

    John Major DID go to a then grammar school. Rutlish School was, then a grammar and became a comprehensive, in, I think 1968 or 69.

    How do I know? I was there between ’66 and ’71.

    You are correct, sorry. He went on the form the Rutles with Eric Idle. JW


  8. I’d like to mention something here that has a direct influence on the quality of education in Britain – at whatever level and in whichever class of school. That is of overload – the direct result of a lack of investment.

    My own experience of teaching in the UK was of having a bucket in the back corner of the classroom that would catch the drips. Furthermore, the text books had to be taken in at the end of the lesson because the school could only afford one set per class year – which made planning tricky too, because it wasn’t possible to teach two classes from the same year concurrently.

    But my main point is that even as a student teacher, I had charge of well over 150 children. Few of whom were interested in mathematics. I could have changed that with my courses on Origami – paper folding – but the pressure of the curriculum prevented that from being much more than a dream.

    The point here is that the children were under pressure to learn: that was a serious disincentive, as the pressure to march on to new topics and new fields was unremitting. Add the pressures on the teacher and you wind up with my friend – who entered the profession – planting some parsnips on his allotment garden. The next time he had any time to look at them, they had set seed and it was twenty months later. Everything he did in those intervening months was eat, sleep and work.

    That is the primary problem with the British system: underinvestment on a massive scale.

    So what’s it like in Europe? I could speak of France and Denmark, but I know the systems of Holland and Germany better. They do have their downsides – but again you need to know the culture to understand the full meaning of this. I will speak first of a friend I met in Hannover, who was shocked that I had so many children to teach – and please bear in mind that I was a student on a 3/4 timetable. Because even at that level, I was teaching twice as many children as a German teacher would – or for that matter, a French or Danish teacher. I was also expected to do my own administrative work and spend several of my lunch-hours in meetings to decide the application of the curriculum and timetabling. As a full teacher, my only free lunch break would be spent doing playground duty.

    Not only that but my expected pay was well under half of theirs. Plus they had an administrative staff to support them.

    The problem isn’t secondary moderns, it isn’t grammar schools. It is the pressure of the workload on teachers and pupils alike. Reduce that and you can expect a substantial and consistent improvement in educational attainment.

    And I haven’t even broached how to teach creativity…


    Good – please don’t. You cannot ‘teach’ creativity. You can encourage kids to have a mind of their own and to come at every problem from various angles; but kids are either creative or not. This is something the Left in general (especially the Fluffy Blairite fascists) simply can’t get their wooly heads round.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. a)
    As a child of the sixties I had the fortune to have a grammer school secondary education and a grant aided tertiary education. We were a favoured generation with opportunities to match our aspirations. Then it all changed-was this a massive social experiment or was a darker agenda being followed?
    Today we have an explosion in higher education especially in soft subjects such as meedja studies.
    By the grade inflation seen in recent years we must be giving birth to a race of geniuses(genii) or the quality of the teaching is superlative or perhaps figures are being massaged so no little darling can be made to feel a failure.
    It would seem in higher education that the submission of 5 smartie packets will guarantee a first, whereas back in the day a first was a well deserved rarity.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Today the reality is that we have many more young people with tertiary education of a questionable quality in certain places and saddled with a massive debt load on graduation.Cynical me would argue that keeping young people in education until their early 20’s is a cunning ruse to keep the unemployment figures down and in tandem imposing debt and dependency. It also provides several more years to impose brainwashing and groupthink on them.I would like to think that where we are today is the result of a huge social experiment that has largely failed for the average recipient.However I more realistically think that where we are is where we were supposed to be. A Dumbed down,Docile, Indebted flock of sheep surrounded by wolves masquerading as bankers, politicians and shady and not so shady shakers and movers.Automation destroys jobs and it is increasing thereby swelling the ranks of the useless eaters.Notice how ageism has reared it ugly head in very recent times:
    The referendum result should never have happened it has upset the timetable of federalism and absolute control.

    Liked by 6 people

  11. Grammar school will be like university soon paid for by loans that create money that adds to the gdp but can never actually stimulate any returns on it! this is the main reason to continue the privatisation of education at all levels!


  12. Fantastic!……………..& the posters.
    A bit of an eye opener was National Service….it had the same effect, for some….The broad contact with all kinds shits and genii. All well skinned with their ingrained attitudes.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. O/T but certainly pertinent.
    Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg. She states:
    Media consumption today is increasingly digitized, but even more so it is curated. News and social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Flipboard have overtaken traditional news outlets as our primary sources of information, of news, of connection to the world around us. …
    Already, Facebook and other media outlets’ algorithms narrow the range of content one sees based on past preferences and interests. This limits the kind of stories one sees, and in turn restricts access to a holistic outlook for the user. We run the risk of creating parallel societies in which some people are not aware of the real issues facing the world, and this is only exacerbated by such editorial oversight. …
    It would be tragic for history, for the truth, to be told in the version that comes from any one corporation’s mouthpiece. This is why I believe it is imperative that such outlets take their responsibility seriously, while exercising such great influence over their users’ access to information.
    – See more at:

    Liked by 2 people

  14. @kfc1404
    It is a sad world when RT provides a more balanced commentary than the BBC and one has to wander thru various websites
    to flesh out the real news from several different perspectives. I think the BBC is no longer fit for purpose and should closed forthwith.

    Liked by 6 people

  15. We can go further than re-introducing grammar schools. I was fortunate enough to attend a Technical Grammar School in the 1950s which led me to university, a good career and an escape from working class Hull. Instead of an education with a classics bias I got an excellent technical grounding; something quite common in continental Europe. So, of course, such technical schools were closed; probably because of a class bias against engineering, shortly followed by grammar schools. Yet even today with the chronic shortage of engineers and shamefully low numbers of girls taking that career path, there is no enthusiasm to bring back technical schools.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. The reintroduction of more grammar schools as the solution to the poor relative education standards of the uk re the rest of the world and the lack of social mobility is IMO as irrelevant and daft as making Eton college a charity, oops it is.


    an ever grateful beneficiary of a grammar school education.


  17. Iain:
    “Today the reality is that we have many more young people with tertiary education of a questionable quality…”

    Taking an interest in my daughter’s schoolwork (at a supposedly ‘outstanding’ high school), I was shocked to find how dumbed-down the curriculum had become compared to my own education at grammar school. It was obvious to me that her four A-levels wouldn’t have passed for O-levels when I was taking them in the 1970s.


    Proven beyond doubt by all the A* passes from six years ago being given a 1967 A_level exam in their strongest subject to take. 92% failed it.
    As Tony Psycho the Clown once memorably remarked, “Everything is exactly the same as it always was, but better”.


  18. @Panopticon

    Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.
    Kofi Annan

    (this would be the last thing the average politician wants for the electorate)

    Liked by 1 person

  19. The day after the referendum all those politicans supporting BREMAIN should have resigned but they have no honor … so we just get more of the same … that more of the same begets all of us looking and reading JW articles. It is not going away, it grows because they still keep doing it.

    Education as an issue used to be a bribe now being played out as a distraction by the dishonorable ones JW.

    If for every time they had reformed education and improved over the last 40 years we should only be producing rocket scientists by now. We are not because those making the changes do not know what is good or bad so for the sake of the bribe it is all thrown away every time A RESET. Even more so if it has 3rd party bribes in it then pay-to-play wins and to remove that kind of bribe you need transparency letting people judge the honesty and truth.

    We only need education now for minimum wage jobs because chances are that is what you will be getting. Each go round of the lets change education to distract / bribe the masses should have had an improvement or no change.

    Mays action and the legacy of her reign though is to distract from issuing article 50 or the likely quashing of the result. Next week it will be the NHS, week after pensions, still here in 5 years then rinse repeat. Each go round we get idiots going, isn’t that good, that’s nice … idiots blinded to everything but the perspective of what makes their lives go round.

    The one good thing we got taught as children was … ???? Guesses … No idea ???? How to teach yourself. The best reward I ever got and actually got it at primary school by who I would consider the best headmaster a child could have. Well you can’t change it, it never dates but best of all … I can disseminate and question all politicans lies so that has to removed from education right?

    Well if they didn’t lie it would not be needed … but they do and frequently.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Iain,

    education is no right. Humans can exist without it.

    However, if one wishes to both improve and secure humanity’s future, it is necessary that we teach our children how to be creative, without being selfish. That is its power to transform.

    Making it a right implies that a government has the power to interfere with this process. Not all governments interfere with the good of their country – and their future – in mind.


  21. There would seem to be two contentious issues when discussing grammar schools that are often conflated, That grammar schools increased social mobility and allowed many from working/underclass backgrounds to reach university and florish in the middle class professions seems irrefutable, as the testimony of many posters and indeed my own parents bear witness. The more difficult issue is one of social cohesion. It could be argued that those that passed the 11+ and were reluctantly allowed in by the existing establishment(s) merely became assimilated to their attitudes and mores and forgot about their roots, pulling the ladder up after them. I have heard countless stories of how friends from elementary school were instantly lost by those who became ‘posh’ by attending the local grammar, due to a bizarre reverse snobbery on the part of those left to the secondary moderns.

    The silent chancre in British education is the existence of a deeply entrenched private school system. As long as this is the case, grammar schools would appear to be the only way to educate the bright working and underclass. The private sector syphons off the majority of the spawn of the upper middle classes and many of the middle class. I am of the opinion that the character of most schools is determined by the attitude/background of a ‘critical mass’ of its pupils. If a majority are middle class, value education and have supportive parents, the school will inevitably be considered ‘good’ and the prospects of the academically bright within the school will be little different from a grammar school. Setting is employed in most schools and the ‘top set’ are probably similar to those that would have benefitted from a grammar school education in the past. As long as the private sector exists, a large number of the children required to create this critical mass in state schools are educated privately.

    Further condemning comprehensive state education is the lack of interest shown by the elites that routinely educate their own offspring privately. I suspect this largely explains why state school teachers are held in such low esteem and the ridiculous ‘check list’ work-loads they are expected to bear.

    My own experience with the Ontario public school system (and public really does mean public in this case), is that in a city where there is only one private high school of note, (a school of only 200 pupils in a city of 500,000), the vast majority of all classes are educated by the state. My children have friends from all backgrounds, from the very wealthy to the very poor. Virtually all of the professional classes here: doctors, lawyers etc. were educated in the public schools. The difference between the Ontario state system and the British system is extraordinary in terms of both the social cohesion it engenders and the support of the system as a whole. Teaching is a very competitive and sought after profession, and the teachers of my acquaintance would much rather teach in the public system than the private as the pay and benefits and general conditions of work here are far superior in the public system. In recent years, the system has been subject to the usual forces of Neoliberalism and as a result is decaying rapidly, but the system as originally conceived, worked extremely well.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Is it not strange that during all those years of Labour government the charitable status of schools such as Eton was unchallenged. To speak of Grammar/secondary modern education being socially divisive is risible when we have the modern comprehensives stacked against private(public) schools. I would totally destroy their charitable status unless 50% of their intake was based on merit rather than wealth. The breath taking arrogance shown by politicians that were spawned in these centers of privilege and wealth cries out for their destruction. Also education would be better served by reintroducing sanctions and discipline to curb the activities of the feral minority that routinely disrupt classes. Why should the teaching of the majority be inhibited by the actions of the few? Whose human rights are being abused in this situation. Pray let the socialist apologists give a sensible answer to that conundrum!

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Is it not strange that during all those years of Labour government the charitable status of schools such as Eton was unchallenged. To speak of Grammar/secondary modern education being socially divisive is risible when we have the modern comprehensives stacked against private(public) schools. I would totally destroy their charitable status unless 50% of their intake was based on merit rather than wealth. The breath taking arrogance shown by politicians that were spawned in these centers of privilege and wealth cries out for their destruction. Also education would be better served by reintroducing sanctions and discipline to curb the activities of the feral minority that routinely disrupt classes. Why should the teaching of the majority be inhibited by the actions of the few?


  24. JW – was that you adding a comment by way of an edit? If so, please make it clear!

    Assuming it was you – after all, you’re the only one here who can edit comments, at least the only one with any moral conscience – it IS possible to teach creativity; however one has to understand what creativity is first. And, as you say, that would be to go too far. Because the overt reality is that kids either have it or they don’t… yet all humans have creativity built in. People just don’t recognize it.

    Answer this dilemma and you will be able to solve Britain’s problems…

    … the only thing is trying to implement it when the government is filled with the kind who find creativity too much of a challenge and prefer brown envelopes to entice them to make decisions.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I do wonder why comments continue to vanish into the aether. As far as I can tell, it is not the length of the comment, nor the words used therein. Perhaps it is intended to be random as it will discourage commenters from taking the time to write their thoughts if there is always a danger that their efforts will be wasted. Any ideas out there?

    Liked by 2 people

  26. @ Canexpat – In order not to lose your comment to the ether, first copy and paste into a Word document. Then try closing the Blog page, reopening and posting comment again. If this doesn’t work, try closing down your computer, reopening and reposting. This has worked for me in the past but is not guaranteed …..


  27. Canexpat : I am another one of those of a lower working class background who lost most of my young friends from primary school when I passed my eleven plus exam. The common refrain was “grammar bob, dirty snob etc”. Grammar School was a blessing for me and resulted in a grant supported tertiary education. However even at grammar school we were sorted into streams and the sons of mere mechanicals were directed into the science sixth (another blessing). Just some of the things that the Grammar School offered which are anaethama now were streaming by ability and discipline, both tended pupils to learn at their level of ability and avoided classroom disruption.

    Anonymous: It is strange that the labour party and the left in general are so outraged by the issue of grammar schools but have little to say about the main source of educational inequality ie the private sector “public scools”. Could this be because so many of then, even left wingers eg Dianne Abbot send their sprogs to private schools and thus buy privilege?

    Gemma et al: It is a shame that education in this country cannot be divorced from our dividedand class riddled society. The Grammar Schools did provide for social mobility within the context of their time but other countries ie Finland show clearly that there are other ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Apologies for spelling and lack of grammar from this grammar school lad. My excuse is that the keyboard of my ancient laptop is sticky (probably from the wine spilled on it over the years)


  29. This posting and comment was back up there with the very best – and in itself, seemed to demonstrate the value of grammar school (and selective)education systems!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. The unasked question in all of the comments posted above is: How do you select kids for grammar school? If it is by test then is a masked IQ test or is it a test of knowledge previously gained? Either way you will select kids with a supportive home environment and good education from birth/pre-school up and hence (mostly) middle class kids or kids whose parents pay buckets of money for tutoring.
    In New South Wales we still have what are known as Selective High Schools, and parents pay tutors to coach their kids to do well in the Selective High School test which is largely based around pre acquired knowledge and maths that can be rote taught. The result is that you have middle class parents paying a motza for tutoring so that they can avoid high private school fees and migrant families who work in factories and crap jobs to pay tutors so that their kids can be socially and economically upwardly mobile and enter the professions.
    After forty odd years teaching in schools and universities I believe that for the sake of wider society and the country and the kids themselves ALL schools should have good teachers who are motivated to teach and inspire, and not compelled to spend their time form filling and constantly testing kids. Here in Australia we have a situation where a kids education is based around constant testing such that teachers have less and less time to teach. If you keep weighing a pig it is not going to get any fatter and will have less time to eat anyway as it is being weighed!
    Forget the tests, forget the penny pinching, let’s have good teachers and good schools for all kids whether it is at St Snob’s, The Twisted Heart of Jesus, or Calamathanka or Ooddnadatta state schools.

    Liked by 4 people

  31. @Dr Gumnut

    Couldn’t agree more. Ontario not only pays its teachers generously, but public school teachers are employed by a ‘Board’ of Education that is free to appoint them to any school within the region. Superb teachers are just as likely to be assigned to poorer areas as to the leafy suburbs which is very different from the British example where teachers apply for positions at individual schools. I have few illusions about the weaknesses of Ontario schools however, and I fear for the future as creeping Neoliberal ‘philosophy’ increases its pernicious influence over policy makers and the public. The U.S.Charter school model, standardised testing and payment by results for teachers is an ever present threat and as good middle class jobs with pensions become as rare as hens’ teeth, teachers are becoming viewed as pampered parasites on the public purse. I do not think it will end well. Even before the Neoliberals got started, Ontario was not an educational utopia by any means and the Middle Classes have gamed the system to the limit here too, but at least there is the attempt to maintain safeguards against what you describe in the Australian system. Children from poor backgrounds still have a much better chance at a quality education that is the case in the U.K. at present.


  32. Thanks Canexpat
    The whole neo-liberal debate has pernicious effects when the whole Human Capital thing gets out of control and we get told that an educated population is good for everyone so that education is a private good. As an educated wealthy lawyer you will benefit from education so you must pay for it, and not sponge off the rest.
    Hang on. Ee also need educated teachers, child care workers, nurses etc…lots of people in caring roles in our society, but we will cut their pay and keep saying there is no money for education. We can squander the money from the mining boom, subsidise bankers etc and subsidize private schools and any wacky religious school that charge fees and are therefore ‘private’ and ‘better’, because we all know that anything you have to pay for is better than what the leaners and bludgers need or deserve.
    If we call it an Academy in the UK, or a private school in Aus, then it by virtue of it’s name it is superior, Meanwhile the bankers are feeling the pinch after the end of the mining boom so we’ll give them a $50 billion tax break.
    After all, those blokes probably have private school fees to pay.


  33. “The children of these feral, opinionated, celeb-obsessed yobs…” are still children who, like the children of any other demographic, are deserving of the best efforts of society to give them a future. It ain’t gonna be easy, but the way must be found to engage them along with those in considerably more advantageous social situations, because it is in all of our interests to do so. If we succeed we will no longer have to worry about avoiding them “like the plague”.


  34. Well my son starts German grammar school tomorrow and I am pleased.

    Was just in France on holiday. What I love about France is how although there are problems there, the French don’t give a damn, they just eat great food, and after that eat more great food. They don’t navel gaze like we Brits and Germans. They just love the best things in life.


  35. A truly excellent post, thank you JW.

    The eldest of 6 sons of an Irish immigrant labourer, I passed the 11+ & went to a rather good grammar school.
    Half the teachers were state employed, who used bamboo canes for discipline, half were De La Salle Christian brothers, who used leather straps.

    There were two sons of Labour Cabinet Ministers in my year, both had been to the adjoining fee-paying “Prep” school, which gave them preference for the grammar. Neither was among the brightest.

    I think the main benefit to me was a sense of confidence: academically & on the playing field, I could hold my head up, amongst the sons of doctors, lawyers, teachers & politicians. Any sense of social inferiority was forever dispelled.
    And going home to a council estate & my pack of brothers kept me grounded.

    If this country was truly interested in progress, grammars would be back pronto, along with a host of other things, but as George Carlin expressed it so eloquently above, “that’s not what the owners (Banksters et al) want”

    John Doran.


  36. Bucks never got rid of its grammar schools. I do think the 11+ exam is not the way to judge. It should be based on ongoing results. Incidently Scotland had at one point semi selective comprehensives which worked very well. I went to one such school. After a very nice gentile primary school I went to the junior secondary where all areas were lumped in together. Its amazing how hard you work when the fear of not living till 4rth year pervades. Of course the lefties couldn’t allow any sort of semi selection going on so they did away with it. Pity


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