“How to Overcome Selection by House Price” is the title of a new “Economic Bulletin” by the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS). It sets out a compelling case for grammar schools. Remarkably, given its source, the case should be as persuasive for those on the Left as for those on the Right.
It was Margaret Thatcher, Keith Joseph and Alfred Sherman who set up the CPS 43 years ago in order to promote economic liberalism. Here we have a publication, however, that puts forward an argument for grammar schools that Karl Marx would surely have embraced as preferable to what he would surely regard as the current unfair capitalist school selection system based on postcode. Remarkable, indeed! It is time those Left Wing opponents of selection stopped oppressing the proletariat by arguing against grammar schools.
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I sat on the CPS education study group under the chairmanship of Baroness Cox. The group constituted a voice of dissent and common sense at a time when reforming mania gripped schools and the DfE.
Our group tried and failed to persuade Keith Joseph and, afterwards, Ken Baker, of the folly of their ways in banning the ‘gold standard’ GCE ‘O’-Level grammar school examination and replacing it with the false educational currency of the all-ability comprehensive school exam, GCSE. We also warned Baker that the writing of England and Wales’s first National Curriculum had been hijacked by the educational establishment – those who had brought our school system to its knees in the first place. In a display of hubris and giddy vanity, the ‘great reformer’ of our schools pressed on, blind to the subversion of his project. These days few commentators recall that is was Pied Piper Ken who led our schools along a pathway to ruin.
Belated recognition of failure came with the appointment of Michael Gove as education secretary in 2010. He grasped what we at the CPS had been saying back in the 1980s and attempted to restore some rigour to both the National Curriculum and to the public exams. He was opposed at every turn, of course, by the ‘Blob’ – a term he used to describe the educational establishment which, unlike Baker and subsequent education secretaries, he began to understand. His somewhat belated recognition of what he was up against did not, however, save him. The ‘Blob’ always wins has become a self-evident truth for education secretaries.
Indeed, Gove’s plans have been further frustrated and thwarted by the surrender to the ‘Blob’ of the current Education Secretary, Justine Greening, on the issues of SATs and the ‘pass’ grade for Gove’s reformed GCSE.
To her credit, the Prime Minister has had the courage to take on the ‘Blob’ over grammar schools. She wants more of them. They want none, at all. If the Government is to record a rare victory over the educational establishment it should use the Marxist dimension of the CPS bulletin to maximum effect.
Thus, it must be stressed that there is a 20 per cent house price premium near top comprehensives. The rich get the best deal and the poor get the scraps. Capitalism is triumphant! It can be defeated, however, by the creation of new ‘free school’ grammars, especially in deprived areas with entry based on aptitude. This will help overturn the capitalism hegemony because the attainment gap between rich and poor at grammar schools is just 4.3 per cent, as against 25 per cent at comprehensive schools. Free schools are, in any case, ten times more likely to be in the most deprived areas compared to the least.
Karl Marx wrote that: “Capital is money, capital is commodities. By virtue of it being value, it has acquired the occult ability to add value to itself. It brings forth living offspring, or, at the least, lays golden eggs.”
A new generation of grammar schools will ensure that some of those golden eggs fall the way of the proletariat.
The CPS argument for grammar schools is ‘power to the people’. Marxists of England should unite behind it.