• Paul Wharton

Secondary-school choice

In last week’s Chronicle Laura Trott used the word ‘choice’ six times in her piece about secondary schools. But she was wrong to suggest that it was local parents who were doing the choosing. Here in Kent everything depends on the eleven-plus, and the examiners decide where pupils can go.

Ms Trott might recall the words of her former employer, David Cameron, who said that parents didn’t want their children divided into sheep and goats at the age of eleven. He pointed out that the Conservatives chose not to open new grammar schools when they were in office.

His predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, had done more to end selection than any other Education Secretary. And once the old discredited system had gone, no local authority wanted to go back to it.

People recognised that the eleven-plus did not increase social mobility, as its defenders claimed. It actually made the situation worse, because very few children from poor families got into those high-status grammar schools. The better-off simply consolidated their advantages.

It’s time for us to follow the example of local authorities that achieve better results than Kent – for all their pupils. That would surely be a choice everyone could support.

- Paul Wharton

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