Of course Grammar Schools should not be banned. It simply isn’t the proper role of the State to ban any type of school, with the exception of terrorist training camps, but to presume that overturning the ban on Grammars is enough to unwed the British education system from its current mediocrity is foolish at best.
What is really needed is genuine school choice and this is how it can be done:
1. Make all schools Independent schools.
Yep. All of them. Yes, I’m serious. Sell them off to education companies, let them be turned into non-profit run schools; it doesn't matter.
2. Each Child’s Parent/Guardian get a state-funded “debit card” for that child, that can be used to pay for educational services.
This includes, but is not limited to, school fees, tutors, and special needs tuition. The lot. It gets topped up every year. Disabled kids, or kids with special needs get extra. What parents don't spend one year rolls over to the next year giving parents an incentive to save and shop around for the best value education money can buy.
3. Stop worrying and learn to love a genuine market in Education.
This is the type of system that they’re trying to bring in Nevada. Massive American public schools mean the needs of disabled or special needs kids just get drowned out and parents are lobbying for this system in order to get a more bespoke education for their children. Only a system which embraces market forces can provide something other than a one size fits all education system. Comprehensives were a backward step, not because they’re undoubtedly mediocre, but because they eradicated the little choice and plurality in the education system the working classes had. Independent schools are not good because they’re richer, they’re good because if they’re not good, no one would choose to send their kids to them. Choice is what’s key.
The problem I have with Grammar schools is that they ensure bright children get a great education, but less able students get thrown on the scrap heap of under-expectation. In reality we should be advocating a system that delivers every child educational excellence (even the thick ones) and only a market can deliver that type of plurality. My ‘Debit Card School Choice’ System effectively creates a market for schooling, but it also delivers a measure of equality by giving poorer children equal access to that market.
Right now, pushy middle class parents monopolise homes in good school catchment areas edging the children of poorer parents out. The type and quality of education should not depend on arbitrary geography. My system harnesses the sharp elbows of the middle classes to make all schools good. If parents want to pay extra for a more expensive school – let them. The goal should be to make all schools so excellent that parents don’t need to buy a house in a different area, or pretend to be Catholic, or to spend thousands on tutors, to get their kids into a good school. All schools should be, and can be, good!
For Conservatives For Liberty, August 2016.