Should selective schooling be banned? The benefits of achievement and the perception of elitism and discrimination in grammar schools.
Why should discrimination, elitism, and selective schooling be banned?
The majority of UK schools are comprehensives, which are non-selective, but there are 164 grammar schools still in existence across the UK, and the current government are purportedly intending to reinvigorate this system.
Opponents of selective schooling emphasise its divisive nature, as the system is essentially dividing children into ‘intelligent’ and ‘unintelligent’ at the age of eleven, which can have devastating consequences on children’s self-esteem and ability to achieve. In addition, there are issues of class surrounding the debate, as students accepted into selective schools are far more likely to be from middle or upper-class backgrounds than from lower income families, as evidenced by the low number of students on free school meals. These issues have led to some perception of grammar schools or other selective schooling as ‘elitist’, discriminating against pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds and therefore preventing social mobility. However, some would champion the notion of ‘selective schooling’ as ensuring that individual children reach their full potential, as they frequently lead league tables in comparison to non-selective schools. This is somewhat countered by the fact that Local Education Authorities (LEAs) which are fully selective have a higher proportion of National Challenge schools (schools which do not meet the target for 30% of pupils achieving 5 A*-C grades, including Maths and English) than neighbouring LEAs which are non-selective. Proponents of selective schooling also argue that this system actually increases social mobility, as it allows bright working-class children opportunities that a standard comprehensive would be unable to provide. Ultimately, although the concept of selective schooling undeniably has merit, a great deal of the assertions made in its favour are unsupported by research, and research has frequently debunked any strong links between selective education and significantly increased achievement.