Our chair, Melissa Benn, has a new book detailing her vision for a National Education Service, and a ‘radical shake up of the purposes and practices of our education system.’ It features some bold ideas including changes to private schools, abolishing SATs in favour of teacher assessment and replacing Ofsted with a local school support service. Of course it also describes why we need to phase out the 11-plus and offer a fully comprehensive education system. The book received a very positive review from Peter Wilby in the Guardian.
We have fringe events taking place at the Lib Dem conference in Brighton on Monday 17th September, the Labour Party conference in Liverpool on Monday 24th September, and the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Monday October 1st. All the events are outside the main conference zones, so we hope our supporters will attend as well as conference attendees. We have a great line up of speakers and you can find out more about the events here.
A reporter for BBC’s Inside Out documentary series discovered that 9 out of 10 private schools were tutoring pupils to pass Kent’s 11-plus, despite coaching for the test being banned by the council. The council is doing nothing as prep schools ignore the rules, Joanne Bartley, Comprehensive Future’s campaign officer, spoke about the problem, and highlighted the unfairness this causes. Kent County Council say they will review lifting the ban, however their position is difficult as if they admit test coaching works (it does!) and allow state schools to coach some schools will make a lot of effort to tutor children while many primary heads dislike the test system and won’t want to. This could cause even more chaos and unfairness in Kent. This situation highlights a problem with any test system for school entry, we wish Kent would abandon its flawed test and offer equal status local schools with simple admissions.
The government has quietly scrapped a £20 million scheme to provide free transport to grammar schools, the plan was designed to boost the number of poorer children claiming grammar school places, though it seems unlikely it would have had much impact as the numbers of disadvantaged pupils who pass the 11-plus is low. This shows the muddle the government has got into with its claims that grammar schools work for social mobility, they are funding £50 million a year of grammar school expansion but not helping poorer children to take those places.
Nick Gibb spoke about the government’s grammar school policy at a conference about evidence in education. He claimed “all kinds of research” showed that grammar schools help poorer pupils, but he failed to name a single research paper. The Conservative’s selective school policy seems to be more about political ideology rather than real evidence.
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