Kyle Stealey: For a better education system, we must keep an open mind

Kyle Stealey has worked in education for six years in both state and private schools. He now works for a private education company. He tweets at @KyleStealey

For some time I have had concerns over the current selective system in place within England; that categorising children at the age of 11 was too young and that areas with large numbers of selective schools limited choice for those pupils who did not pass the entrance examinations.

We have now heard from the Prime Minister that an 18-year law banning the expansion of selective schools is to be lifted and that meritocracy will be at the heart of our education system once more. Despite the incessant grumbling on Twitter, having read the PM’s speech, I feel we should keep an open mind to these proposals. This is not a proclamation of absolute support but an openness to exploring the opportunities and possibilities on offer. Sometimes the best advocates of a policy are those with a critical eye. For this reason, I believe Justine Greening is an excellent choice for Education Secretary and to deliver these radical reforms. Greening’s own comprehensive schooling ought to make her particularly wary of how such policies impact on poorer pupils. I believe that she will put those pupils’ interests at the forefront of her mind throughout the implementation of this policy.

Theresa May has allayed initial fears that we were being dragged back to a two-tiered system; ‘this is not a proposal to go back to a binary model of grammars and secondary moderns but to build on our increasingly diverse schools system’. The proposed stipulations of enforcing greater collaboration of grammar schools with local primaries and non-selective secondaries is to be welcomed, along with encouraging grammar schools to set up non-selective free schools. Secondly, the desire to see selection entry at 14 and 16 is a step in the right direction.

The most welcoming news of all was her commitment to ensuring that those pupils who continue their education in the comprehensive system are given access to a high quality education, that keeps door open and continues to knock-down barriers. Universities will play a greater role in local schools in return for charging higher fees whilst the “charitable-status” of private schools is to be scrutinised, forcing them to offer more generous bursaries to disadvantaged pupils or to link up with a state school.

Every child is entitled to a good standard of education, irrespective of background,  postcode or academic ability. Theresa May has thrown out the gauntlet to grammar school leaders: “you want to expand? Fine – but play your part in making Britain ‘a country that works for everyone’”.