Grammar schools’ unwelcome return in a modern world

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From: Brian Blackwell, Austhorpe Road, Leeds.

I RARELY buy this paper because I find its political bias does not impress me. So Grant Woodward’s article on grammar schools (The Yorkshire Post, December 13) was no surprise. I simply wondered which planet he’d come from.

I was at a grammar school in the 1940s and ’50s, taught in grammar and comprehensive schools, trained teachers and visited them in all kinds of schools when they were on their practical sessions. I lectured in a number of colleges and universities, so feel safe in tackling any educational article.

In those early days my dad was sweeping the gutters of Oxford. Oh yes, he’ll say, grammar schools were just perfect for him! His whole article was about the justification for elitism, exploitation and crippling divisiveness. We know how relieved teachers were when Michael Gove vanished. Even worse now is Nicky Morgan, a prominent Christian: some hope for curriculum reform.

Take Mr Woodward’s comments on uniforms, discipline, team sports et al. I thought education was about individualism not uniformity; self-discipline, not control by humiliation and crazy punishments? Then team sports (I thought Margaret Thatcher had sold off half the playing fields to big business?): where is the support for properly qualified sports teachers?

Whatever has happened to music, dance, gymnastics, art and craft work in our state schools? Even the few remaining grammar schools are more interested in league tables.

We are in a multi-faith, multi-cultural, pluralistic (whatever you want to call it) post-God society, a secular society unfairly financed.

It has a totally dysfunctional and divisive political system, seemingly run by old Etonians and a few who try to emulate them. Curriculum reform and a genuine attempt to take education seriously is so vital now after years of chaos. Take one of Nicky Morgan’s priorities: religious education. That will surely never allow for freedom of speech, the understanding of democratic principles let alone the development of individuality, free-thinking, and social responsibility. Parental choice for whatever religious education they prefer can be done in their own time, not wasting that time and brow-beating kids to conform to one particular religion as in faith schools.

Grant Woodward needs a re-education that will bring him into the 21st century. Our children deserve far more than they are getting at present.