A ‘Clause 4’ proposal for David Cameron

The restoration of selective secondary education in Britain looks “further away than ever” after two “hammer blows from the top of the education establishment”, says Richard Garner in The Independent.

First, the government rejected plans to set up a “satellite” grammar school in Sevenoaks, Kent. Then, the Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, told The Observer that he did not see selection as a way to push Britain up the international literacy and numeracy league tables.

“Grammar schools are stuffed full of middle-class kids… Anyone who thinks grammar schools are going to increase social mobility needs to look at the figures.” Only 3% of these children are on free school meals, he pointed out, compared to a national average of 17%.

Grammar schools actively work against social mobility and “ensure that certain circles remain the preserve of the privileged”, says Dr Tessa Stone, admissions tutor at the University of Cambridge, in The Daily Telegraph.

The Sutton Trust has just published a survey that found that more than 25% of middle-class parents say they moved house to live in areas with good schools and 15% of parents in upper income bands say they had moved to be near a specific school.

Any honest debate about social mobility should recognise why the privately educated dominate the upper echelons of our professions, says Matthew Parris in The Times. In 1980 the Tories brought in a scheme funding places at independent schools for a few state-sector pupils.

A recent poll by the Sutton Trust of some of the 750,000 who benefited found 80% went to university, none were manual labourers and nearly half earned more than £90,000. This group also gained more Oxbridge places with lower A-level results than their state-schooled peers. “Self-confidence and presentation must be the explanation.”

Parris proposes that all private schools should be legally forced to accept 25% of their intake as scholarship boys and girls, funded by the state on a means-tested basis. The independent schools will “howl”, but it would be “transformative” for “posh boys” George Osborne and David Cameron. Indeed, it could be the prime minister’s “Clause 4 moment”.

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