Sharon Hodgson

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ECHO COLUMN: Schools plan shows Tories out of touch

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.


When the Prime Minister stood outside Downing Street earlier this year, she told the country that no one would be left behind.

Yet, in the months since her appointment, Theresa May has run roughshod over this promise and brought in plans which would take regressive steps back on improving the lives of many children and young people in our country with the introduction of Grammar Schools.

These plans, just like the Government’s plans to force all schools to become academies, have been met with opposition from across the political spectrum, including Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner and the former Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan.

Add to this the anger from education experts, teachers, trade unions and most importantly, the wider public, and it is clear that the Government is not listening to the people.

The evidence is clear, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) showed last month, that where grammar schools are prevalent, such as in Kent, only 27% of pupils on free school meals achieved five good GCSEs.

The Government says that children on free school meals thrive in grammar schools, yet ignore the facts that the poorest children struggle in this form of education as shown by the IFS, and also that only 2.5% of grammar school entrants are entitled to free school meals.

It is absolutely paramount that we improve the education of children and young people in our country in order that the next generation have the skills and knowledge to achieve in the 21st century world of work.

However, deciding a child’s future prospects at the age of 11 is a highly damaging way of educating our children, which deserves to be left forgotten in the 1950s.

This is compounded when the financial means of more affluent families are used to help coach their children to excel and pass the 11+ exams, which disproportionately advantages their future education over that of children from families who do not have the means to have their child coached in this way.

This is why we should oppose these plans wherever possible.

Grammar schools are yet another example of how out of touch the Tories are with the public and the experts, and instead of stopping and listening to the evidence, are dragging us back to a failed educational system based on segregation. Instead the Government should be getting to work on the nuts and bolts issues facing our education system; ever-increasing class sizes and teacher shortages - not another bells and whistles restructuring of our schools which nobody wants or asked for.

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