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Parental choice is paramount in schools debate

Published 16/11/2015

THROUGH the letters page of the Times of Tunbridge Wells (my local free newspaper) I have recently become embroiled in debate over academic selection in post-primary education. A satellite grammar school is to be opened and comprehensive school zealots are enraged.

What's not to like about challenging a school system that fails most children? For failing most children is certainly built into the current system, as our performance on the OECD international league table of educational performance at age 15 makes clear.

The argument against grammar schools on the grounds of selection is a non-starter. Selection is ubiquitous in the state school sector. It is based on a parent's ability to buy a house in the catchment area of a good school and, if necessary, to hire tutors.

The argument for grammar schools is that children should be educated in line with their ability. We need grammar schools for academic children just as we need gold-standard vocational schools for youngsters whose aptitude is in the practical field.

Northern Ireland, which has kept its grammar schools, consistently outperforms the rest of the UK in terms of public exam results. Clearly, the lessons all of us, wherever we live, must learn are to quit denigrating the 11-Plus and our grammar schools, and to start championing raising academic standards and extending parental choice in education.

CHRISTOPHER LUKE

Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Belfast Telegraph

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