A Grammar School in Every Town

Adrian Elliott's picture
The only policy, apart from leaving the EU, which UKIP has stuck consistently to in this parliament has been bringing back the 11+,grammar schools and, although rarely mentioned, secondary modern schools, throughout England.

They have even adopted the same slogan with which John Major hoped to rally voters in the 1997 election ; 'A grammar school in every town!'.

At the time I wrote to my local paper listing the main arguments against selection and also, what I saw as, the total impracticality of the proposal.

I don't intend just now to reiterate the wider case against selection. It has been made by many people,including founders of this site. I have written and spoken on the issue many times.

But a grammar school in every town: how on earth would the policy be actually implemented?

What would happen,for example, in the hundreds of towns throughout the country presently served (and usually very effectively) by one comprehensive school. I can think of a dozen such, within a short drive of my house. No chancellor would agree to the enormous funding required for all the new schools required to separate the sheep and goats in Farage's new dawn. Gove's free school revolution has been tiny in comparison and yet the finances of that are already creaking .

One might , perhaps, bus all the sheep out of Town A to the school in Town B whilst the goats travel in the opposite direction. But given that LAs are trying desperately to make huge reductions in school travel costs this seems as much a financial non-starter as building new schools everywhere. And imagine a parent's reaction to learning that, not only has their child just failed the 11+ but s/hemust travel miles to a school in another town instead of attending the popular local comprehensive school which has just been re-designated a grammar school.

And what about the many towns with two or more schools. Who will decide and how which become grammar schools and which secondary moderns? Not the local authority in this new age of the academy certainly. So a free for all? We've got that already many might think but this would surely make a bad situation infinitely worse.

My letter to the local paper in 1997 was not published
but was apparently shown to Gillian Shepherd, then Secretary of State for Education, with a request for a comment. According to a local journalist she refused a comment but looked 'very angry'. He said 'my impression was that she hated having to defend the policy' .

Quite. It made no sense then and it makes no sense now.
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Brian's picture
Wed, 04/06/2014 - 13:19

I asked our local UKIP canvassers why their pamphlets say they will bring back Grammar Schools but never say they will bring back Secondary Moderns for most pupils. I was told that there are already secondary moderns in parts of England and so I was talking rubbish. I thought I'd better leave it there!

Jane Eades's picture
Wed, 04/06/2014 - 13:41

I went to one of those wonderful grammar schools (in Dorset and many years ago). On arriving at 11 I was jumped a year because I did well on a test. I didn't survive because I didn't understand what was required of me.

When I went into the 2nd year for real it was decided to put me into the B stream (apparently to make me work, although I didn't know that). In that class I learned how to play strip poker, throw a knife and pick a lock. When it was obvious the plan didn't work I went back to the A stream.

Teaching was to the middle of the class, so some struggled and some sat bored.

At A level, being the only girl amongst boys, was sheer hell. The Chemistry teacher made it clear that girls shouldn't be doing science. No-one took the trouble to suggest I was good enough to do Maths at University, so I refused to go.

Much of the teaching was, I'm afraid to say, complacent. Is this really what we want to bring back? I would have done very much better at a secondary modern school in London - or even, dare I say, a comprehensive school!

Jane Eades's picture
Wed, 04/06/2014 - 13:44

PS rereading this makes it look as though I am bitter. Failing to go to university at that time and doing a variety of other jobs made doing a degree in my 30s so much more valuable and enjoyable and it made me, I think, a far better teacher.

Andy V's picture
Wed, 04/06/2014 - 14:38

A potpourri of thoughts:

1. It appears that some Secondary Moderns will well still operate:

"In counties still operating a selective system, there are still schools fulfilling the role of the secondary modern by taking those pupils who do not get into grammar schools. These schools may be known colloquially (though not officially) as high schools (Medway and Trafford), upper schools (Buckinghamshire) or simply all-ability schools."


"3,446: There are 3,446 state secondary schools in England. The vast majority (about 2,950) are comprehensive in name. There are still 164 selective grammar schools in the country and the rest are either secondary modern schools or "high" schools (effectively secondary modern schools that choose to use a different name to describe themselves)." (Sep 11)


2. The 2010 UKIP Manifesto (now officially disowned by Mr Farage) included:

"On Schools and Families:

The manifesto does not specify whether these policies apply across the UK or will be devolved.
•Offer all parents school vouchers, useable for state, private or faith schools
•Schools and colleges franchised to charities, parental co-operatives and businesses, governed by County Election Boards.
•Encourage new grammar and specialist schools. Introduce "Comprehensive Test" to assess merit across academic and non-academic abilities. More powers for governors and favour home education.
•More on-the-job teacher training and insistence on higher qualifications for aspiring teachers
•Scrap 50% target for young people going to university. Allow universities to choose on academic merit alone and change some back to skills and vocational colleges
•Replace student loans and tuition fees with grants."

(Apr 2010)


3. Nigel Farage disowns Ukip's entire 2010 election manifesto

"Ukip leader says all policies are under review and he will not commit to new ones until after European elections"


To the best of my knowledge UKIP has yet to finalise let alone launch it's Manifesto for 2015.

On the basis of the above information I suggest that the opening points of the thread are inaccurate and, as we all already know, the English education system is in a fine mess. In the most simplistic terms this situation arises from the Conservative years followed by the Labour years and compounded by Coalition years. It would then be better to avoid straw man positions and stick to reality. Our politicians of all hues have a made a reet dogs breakfast of it all. Wikipedia is know for its errors but by and large the Independent, BBC and Guardian are usually quite accurate.

Brian, if UKIP canvassers are getting it wrong goodness only knows what the LibDem door knockers will pedal ... :-D

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 04/06/2014 - 15:31

The opposite to "a grammar school in every town" is, of course, "a secondary modern in every town" unless, as Adrian suggests, the 11+ failures would be bused to a secondary modern somewhere in the area.

As Adrian says, some towns have one comprehensive school which, in rural areas, serves a wide area. These comprehensives would have to be turned into grammars if UKIP is to keep its promise of a grammar school in every town. So, where do the majority of children, the 75% who will fail the 11+, go to be educated?

Andy V's picture
Wed, 04/06/2014 - 15:45

When my post completes moderation it will be seen that this is strawman position (including links to the Independent, which indicates that secondary modern schools still operate, a BBC article from 2010 that fails to confirm the asserted position on Grammar schools, and a 2014 Guardian article stating that UKIP don't actually have any manifesto pledges).

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 04/06/2014 - 16:02

Sunday 1 June. "Nigel Farage has declared he wants to see a grammar school in every town..." The Guardian.

He made the remark on the Andrew Marr show and it was widely reported in the media.

Andy V's picture
Wed, 04/06/2014 - 16:40

And quoting from the same article:

""Now, that obviously will cost money … I think a top rate of tax in this country of around about 40% is the one that will bring the most revenue into the exchequer and I think through the 80s and 90s we saw that."

He argued that bringing in more grammar schools would deal with a "shaming" lack of social mobility in Britain."

First point, and remembering we are talking about a politician, Q&A on a TV programme does not equate to a published policy endorsed by his party.

Second point, and this is equally pertinent. In relation to the top rate of tax he is quoted as saying "I think". This cannot therefore be either a hard and fast personal belief or a party policy.

Third point, in relation to grammar schools "he argued that". Again this is Mr Farage speaking aloud and in the absence of a public announcement by his party I for one would suggest wait and see.

Lets face it the DMP made 2 huge promises - note promises not personal thoughts, regarding university fees and Forge Masters - and look what happened!

If any politician reneges on or makes false pledges then by all means they deserve what they get but in Farage's case he has done neither of these things, yet. All he has done is engage in the standard political interview rhetoric. All politician's and party spokespeople do it. After all it is a pretty standard way of gauging the publics response and appetite for whatever is being floated.

Barry Wise's picture
Thu, 05/06/2014 - 09:15

Nigel Farage lives in Kent, where competition for Grammar school places is intense.
On topline KPIs Grammar schools (unsurprisingly) look good, so everyone assumes they are better schools.

But on Value Added, no Kent Grammar comes in the top ten schools in the county. As VA scores become more significant in the new accountability regime, maybe perceptions will change.

agov's picture
Thu, 05/06/2014 - 09:58

Other than on the overriding issue of getting Britain out of the EU nightmare, all UKIP's policies are, or were when they had any, rubbish. Even their 'policies' on how to free Britain (and hopefully the rest of Europe) from EU domination require a lot more work.

The UKIP website under 'Where We Stand' currently says they will

"Allow the creation of new grammar schools"

and their 2014 local manifesto says under WHAT YOUR UKIP COUNCILLORS WILL WORK FOR:

"Education: Improve access to quality local education and create more grammar
schools and technical skills colleges, encourage vocational apprenticeships,
give parents the right to choose where their children go to school, protect rural
schools and support home schooling."

Not that that necessarily means anything - Farage has said "When it comes to websites, I'm not the expert".

As Farage has cheerfully described UKIP's 2010 manifesto as "drivel" and "nonsense", now might be a good time to assist UKIP towards higher quality policies. Perhaps Roger Titcombe should send him a copy of his book and explain why CATs are better than grammars.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 05/06/2014 - 09:58

UKIP's website makes it clear the party supports the creation of new grammar schools. This isn't, of course, the same as "a grammar school in every town" but it does show that UKIP are in favour of disbanding comprehensive education in areas (the majority) where there is no selection.

Andy V's picture
Thu, 05/06/2014 - 18:41

I'm not prepared to pass any comment until the manifesto is formally and full launched. The same goes for all the parties.

Farage quotes appearing the press indicate some of the thinking but until the final document that is all it is, thinking:

"Nigel Farage has declared he wants to see a grammar school in every town and cut the top rate of tax to 40p,"

"Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Farage gave some indications of what would be in the party's manifesto"

"The party is in the process of forming policies for 2015 and reshuffling its top team"

"What I can tell you for certain is that our biggest tax objective in that next manifesto will be no tax on the minimum wage – we've got to incentivise people to get off benefits and to get back to work," he said"

"Farage plans to launch Ukip's policies in Ed Miliband's Doncaster constituency in the autumn. In a warning to Labour about the party's appeal to disillusioned voters, he stressed that Ukip wanted to "actually genuinely address the cost of living and to progress social mobility"."


Lots of hints but the party, such as it is, has got to formalise and ratify any policies before it is launched in the autumn.

While it does indeed appear that the leaning toward grammar schools is unlikely to disappear, from what I have read the UKIP/Farage comments have not stated that it is their intention to, "[disband] comprehensive education in areas (the majority) where there is no selection".

It also strikes me as being somewhat partial for some LSN contributors on different threads to suggest people write to their MPs and/or political parties (i.e. LibDem, Labour, Greens) to lobby for a cessation of and change to the coalitions strategy but no-one suggests lobbying UKIP. I would have thought that as they have yet to formalise their manifesto and attendant policies this is the time to lobby them.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 06/06/2014 - 08:46

Andy - if UKIP is suggesting policies it is quite legitimate to comment on them in the same way as we can comment on remarks by Hunt on what a future Labour government might do, or what a future Conservative government would do. The latter, for example, might suggest allowing for-profit schools. It would be unwise to wait until the suggestion was in the manifesto.

Sometimes these suggestions are kite-flying to gauge reaction and to find out whether such policies would attract votes or not.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 06/06/2014 - 08:48

Andy - I don't think UKIP is proposing to set up new grammar schools in areas where they already exist. It follows, therefore, the party wants new grammar schools in areas where they don't exist ie areas where there is no 11+. This would in effect disband comprehensive education in these areas.

Arun's picture
Tue, 10/06/2014 - 13:09

Grammar schools only survive if they attract families that live far away so the non-selective schools in grammar school areas get a share of bright locals to push their results up. UKIP policy will bring about the end of grammar schools because all the non-academically selective schools' results will take a dive and parents will demand mixed ability schools only.

All secondary schools should be local or boarding only (no day pupils). All schools should be mixed ability and all universities should be mixed ability too.

Children of lawyers and doctors should have their boarding school fees paid by the state to temper the influence of their elitist families and help them grow into decent adults.

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