Selection and National Education Service discussed at Labour Party Conference but no firm pledge to phase out the 11-plus.
Labour Party delegates spoke passionately about the need to end the 11-plus in the education session on Tuesday. Jo Smith, of Comprehensive Future’s Steering Committee and Maidenhead CLP, told conference of her dismay that Conservative policy proposed new grammar schools in her town, threatening her local comprehensive schools. She urged Angela Rayner to create a policy to end the 11-plus which would not close grammar schools, but, “open them up to all children.”
Jonny Roberts from Newbury CLP spoke about the shame he felt when he did not pass the 11-plus, pointing out that no child should be made to feel a failure at such a young age. He called for the education problems in Buckinghamshire, Kent and Lincolnshire to be tackled by Labour with a commitment to phase out grammar schools.
Melissa Benn of Comprehensive Future said, “It is disappointing that Labour has not yet committed to a clear policy to end selection. It would be popular with Labour members and clearly many delegates to the conference felt an end to selection is well overdue. We welcome the broad outlines of the new charter for the National Education Service but its commitment to fair schooling for all naturally leads to the phasing out of the 11-plus.”
The charter states that, ‘Every child, and adult, matters, so the National Education Service will be committed to tackling all barriers to learning and providing high-quality education for all.’
As Comprehensive Future has long argued, the 11-plus is a barrier to success, with wealthier families gaming the system by paying for 11-plus tuition, and poorer children offered less opportunity of a broad and balanced education in ‘secondary modern’ schools.
Melissa Benn said, “If Labour believe every child matters and want to bring down barriers they should definitely end the 11-plus. The education divide in selective areas means unequal access to good schools. High-quality education should be available for all children, not just those few who reach grammar schools.”
Another point in the charter refers to wellbeing and mental health suggesting, ‘The National Education Service must have the utmost regard for the wellbeing of learners and educators.’
Melissa Benn added, “We know the 11-plus causes unnecessary stress to primary school children, and hope that Labour might consider the damaging effects of this awful test.
The National Education Service charter also claims that under Labour education will be for the public good. Grammar schools are good for the few and not the many. Labour should open up grammar schools to all local children and create high quality comprehensive schools in selective areas.”