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Would grammar schools create a wealth divide?

Since Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans to create more grammar schools across the UK the debate around whether or not it is a positive step has been ranging. Some have argued that it will create a wealth divide while others state it can raise education standards for all children in the country.

Grammar schools are state secondary schools that aim to ensure that the brightest children are encouraged to achieve higher academic standards. In order to be accepted into a grammar school children aged 11 must sit an entrance exam before the school selects those that will attend. Currently there are just 164 grammar schools in the England and over 3,000 secondary schools.

Now the education director of think-tank OECD Andreas Schleicher has wade into the discussion. While he recognised that a selective education system works in some countries, he argued that it was not a solution for the UK and instead alternatives for giving bright pupils more opportunities should be sought. During a speech Schleicher said that within the European education system schools are good at selecting students based on their social background and one-off tests are likely to favour this over true academic potential.

Many teachers too are not supportive of the call for more grammar schools. According to TES, a platform for teachers to share resources, 72% of teaching staff don’t think it’s a good idea and over half would not be prepared to work in a grammar school.

While there has been some criticism in response to the plans, May and the Education Secretary Justine Greening have continued to back the proposal. The government has also made an effort to address some of the concerns that those disapproving of the plans have raised. The Department of Education has stated that pupils coming from disadvantaged backgrounds may be favoured during grammar school admission process, allowing children from lower-income families to have access to the good education that grammar schools provide.

The department has also added that there will be a focus on maintaining standards right across the educational system, with grammar school bettering British education rather than coming at the cost of other local schools.

What do you think to the grammar school plans? Do you think they will create a wealth divide or help bright pupils achieve more? Let us know you views on the School Reviewer forum.

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