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Paul T Horgan: Labour’s loathing of grammar schools is all about ensuring misery for all

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Cameras no longer use film. Some people still do not know that. The ability to see small objects in an image is not governed by physical limitation, but computing power. Microchips can also successfully interpolate image fragments, like 12-point type on a policy document.

A number of initiatives have been exposed because a magnified image made text on a paper legible. In 2009, police raids on potential terrorists had to be brought forward because an officer inadvertently leaked information after being photographed carrying documents in a clear folder. Computing power has increased twelve times since than.

Avoidable leaks still happen. The briefcase was used in Roman times. It is now an £8 billion-a-year global industry. It should be used more.

The latest leak is over grammar schools. Information entered the public domain courtesy of Education Department Permanent Secretary Jonathan Slater, a man who has been shown to on occasion eschew briefcases when on official business.

Labour went on the attack immediately, laying down an emergency question in the Commons. Justine Greening duly appeared and explained the policy. Labour was not impressed.

Its education spokesperson, Angela Rayner, only got the job because no-one else wanted it. She has to double up because of the Labour MPs’ strike, and is also busy as Equalities minister. Her previous work was as a union convenor. Rayner has never worked in the private sector, unlike Greening.

This may explain her knee-jerk responses to the announcement. The key element in her diatribe was this:

“Quite how making things worse by bringing back grammar schools as a solution remains a mystery. Perhaps the Secretary of State can tell us why she is not ensuring that all children get a decent education?”

This is Labour’s Big Lie.

Labour implies that any child who does not enter a grammar school will not receive a ‘decent education’. So they do not protest against grammars per se.

Opposition to grammars has not been about their exclusivity; they have been very inclusive. Children from humble backgrounds received a top-quality educations and never looked back.

Melvyn Bragg’s father was a mechanic; his mother a tailor. Bragg passed his 11-plus. He was head boy at his local grammar and graduated from Oxford. Bragg has had a successful media career and is a Labour peer.

Catherine Ashton was a coal-miner’s daughter who passed her 11-plus. She was the first person in her family to go to university and thrived thereafter. A peer from 1999, she was EU Trade Commissioner and then the EU’s ‘Foreign Minister’. Last year she became a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG), an award for foreign service that is so exalted it is allegedly nicknamed ‘God Calls Me God’.

Both of these high-achievers are members of a party that now wants to discourage high achievement. People at the top of the ladder want to kick it away.

Labour’s position is a red herring, designed to limit the number of people who receive a first-class academic education to those who can afford to pay for it privately.

There is an erroneous assumption that those that do not go to the new grammars will receive a second-rate education. Secondary moderns were, under the Butler Act, meant to be just as good as the grammars, but with a different focus on subjects. There was nothing wrong with the actual policy. The fault lay in implementation.

The lower requirement for education to enter manual industries meant that no-one cared about secondary moderns and they languished. Middle-class parents of less bright children worried about poor Johnny mixing exclusively with the rough boys. Unions felt that members working in secondary moderns were second-class teachers.

Grammar schools were not the problem. This is the red herring.

The corollary of grammars should be that the quality of the alternatives should be as good in their different approaches to education. This is a job for Ofsted. And this should be Labour’s focus instead of blind class warfare. There need to be more Braggs and Ashtons, not fewer.

Britain’s future is not in industries where it is possible to leave school at 14 with a rudimentary education and be able to get a decent job. Those jobs have gone. To compete in the 21st century when there will be increasing automation, Britain needs a highly-skilled and thus highly trained workforce.

The alternative is that our under-skilled workforce will be idle. The demand for the wealth created by robots to be redistributed by the State as a ‘basic wage’ will be impossible to resist. Our competitiveness will diminish.

We need a talented workforce where individual ability is promoted by the education system and not suppressed as it has been by a collectivist mentality and the socialist politics of bigotry. Grammar schools are a part of this.

(Image: Chris Sampson)

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan works in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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