Last night Melissa Benn, Chair of Comprehensive Future, held a brief debate at a fringe event during the Lib Dem conference in Brighton. The panel were there to discuss education, grammar schools, social inequality and fair admissions.
(Photo : The panel from left to right – Fiona Millar, Professor Rebecca Allen, Dr Marlene Ellis (Chair), Tony Hill)
Professor Becky Allen, Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for Education Improvement Science at the UCL Institute of Education, questioned whether parents were really happy with the current “narrative of parental choice” and what systems might give every child “a fair roll of the dice”. She raised issues around the inequalities created by church schools and their selective admissions criteria. She argued for a return to catchment areas, arguing that ‘choice’ had only made segregation worse.
Fiona Millar, journalist and campaigner, argued that for too long the education system in England has been plagued by “electoral logic” which allowed middle class advantage in the education system in return for votes. She questioned which political party would be brave enough to tackle this. She wanted an Independent Admissions Board to be set up by central government, which all schools and academies would have to refer to; a board which would run a fair admissions system for all children.
Many in the audience spoke of the life long emotional impact and damage the 11+ and the grammar schools selection process had had on them, their friends and their family. Fiona Millar went on to speak about how more incentives have to be put in place for schools to move away from exclusions and selection to more inclusive practice.
In such a fragmented education system it is difficult to see any political leaders being brave enough to tackle the complexities of implementing reforms.
You can read Comprehensive Future’s case for reform to the current schools admissions systems and ways to make the education system fairer for all:
For anyone interested in education policy, Comprehensive Future are taking their debates to the next two conferences:
Labour Party Conference . Phasing out selection – what’s Labour problem?
Monday 24th September 2018 at 6.30pm at The Function Room, The Baltic Fleet, 33a Wapping, Liverpool L1 8DQ.
Prof Stephen Gorard and Dr Nadia Siddiqui, researchers from the Durham University Evidence Centre for Education.
Holly Rigby, teacher in a London academy school, post graduate student at Kings College London and Momentum activist.
Melissa Benn, Chair of Comprensive Future and author of ‘Life Lessons : The Case for a National Education Service.’
Chair: Dr.Nuala Burgess
Conservative Party Conference: Selection: A Conservative obsession that has to end
Monday 1st October, 6.30pm at The First Floor Function Room, Old Joint Stock Theatre, 4 Temple Row West, Birmingham, B2 5NY
Geoff Barton, General Secretary, the Association of School & College Leaders (ASCL)
Duncan Ali, ‘Save our Schools’ education campaigner.
Chris Philp MP, Conservative Member of Parliament for Croydon South.
Chair: Fiona Millar