Mrs May’s pledge to re-introduce grammar schools where there is a local desire for them is not merely sensible: it is scriptural.
Let me declare my interest: I went to a Catholic grammar school. The majority of pupils were there having passed the 11-plus, but there were not enough bright Catholics to fill all the places (those who failed were normally sent to Cardinal Newman’s secondary modern in another part of the city). So the surplus places were offered to Protestant children on a fee-paying basis. Most of them had failed the 11-plus but were accepted on the basis of the school’s own entrance exam. I was one of the latter.
It took but five minutes to recognise that the 11-plus was a long way from infallible. Some of the brightest children in the fast stream had failed it and some of the strugglers in the third stream had passed it. Nor was it a question just of late development. Some of the failures excelled in Latin or maths from the outset.
That injustice, however, can be put right by a more flexible system of transfers. The core concept of giving the brightest children a highly academic education tailored to their abilities is sound and just.
Consider the Parable of the Talents. One man was gifted with five talents which he turned into another five, one with two which he used to make another two, but the chap with a single talent buried it in the ground and did nothing with it.
As a society we do nothing with a lot of talent, which lies buried in the ground of large urban council estates. A bright child from a deprived or chaotic background has a major escape route if his or her education is designed to stretch abilities to the limit. I saw it happen often enough in my own constituency which had both the 11-plus and grammar schools.
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