This was the question I was asked by the Echo recently. Today they published my view (reproduced below) and that of Julian Ware-Lane – a Labour councillor who seems to oppose quite a lot of things – Grammar Schools, Faith Schools, Free Schools, reforming our Youth Services into something that young people want – to name just a few. But, in the interests of fairness, you can see his views on Grammar Schools here.
It is interesting that the grammar schools are always referred to (when talking about ‘how few’ of our children go there) as the borough’s. They are not. The four grammar schools are academies that are geographically located in Southend. It is not down to Southend Council to choose who goes there.
When it comes to numbers it is noteworthy that these four grammars make up 50% of the grammar schools in Essex and 2.5% of grammar schools in England. Southend-on-Sea has slightly less than a third of one percent of the population of England. Yet approximately 50% of the pupils that attend these four schools are from Southend. You don’t need a CSE (or a GCSE if you’re lucky to be young enough!) Grade 1 in maths to see the point I’m making here. Nevertheless I hope it will be more in the near future – if that’s what parents want and they are the right place for the individual child.
The Echo asks: ‘Is selective education working?’ – Yes:
“In Southend we have a mixed economy of secondary schools – special, faith, community and academy schools – including our four grammar schools.
Being responsible for schools in Southend I want to maximise the choice for parents, whilst ensuring every child receives a high quality education. In my view grammar schools are an important element in doing just this.
Over many years grammar schools have shown that they provide an excellent all round education, enabling pupils from all backgrounds – rich or poor – to access some of the best universities in the world. I am proud of the achievements of our young people attending the grammar schools and for the positive experience the schools provide.
However, grammar schools are not suitable for all. I am equally proud, not only of the exam results, but of the preparation for adulthood that our other schools provide to the majority of Southend’s children.
I want to increase the number of our town’s children benefiting from attending a grammar school, if that is the right education for them, but I also want to support the fantastic efforts of the other schools we have.
We are fortunate that our grammar schools and our non-selective schools work in partnership to improve the educational provision across the town.
I believe that grammar schools play a very significant role in providing some of the brightest children with a fantastic education, however my number one ambition is that all of our children, whatever school they attend, go to one that is Good or Outstanding.”