Jacqueline Duncan’s thoughts on the Debate over the Future Structure of Education in the UK

The debate over the future structure of education in the UK has become increasingly emotive.   The ball is being tossed around between politics, finance, and not least snobbery, and the arguments become increasingly opaque, loaded as they are with peripheral considerations.

Accusations regarding parental ambition abound.  Footnotes concerning the cost of houses in the proximity of good schools and tutoring costs only available to well to do families come under the heading of ‘unfair’ to those with lesser incomes.  These points are linked to the assumption  that children who can afford either private education or are able intellectually to access the grammar school programme are bound to be smarter, more successful and therefore superior to those who cannot sail over the five bar gate of entry exams.

It  is ludicrous to suppose that parents are not going to fight like tigers for the benefit and future of their children – it is also ludicrous to suppose that  children will ever come out of a single mold, so that their education and training needs to be considered from the point of view of the individual in terms not only of teaching but of individual development.

Historically grammar schools have proved to be successful – the reputation of Manchester Grammar comes to mind – and I cannot find clarity in the objections to a system which was widely admired.   The objections come under the heading of selectivity and unfairness but these are thin reasons for denying any child the possibility of quality and its availability.

So the real problem lies in the fact that there are numbers  of children who do not necessarily excel scholastically, whose needs and talents require far greater scrutiny than they have been accorded in recent times.   Very little attention is given to developing the sklils of those children unless they are lucky enough to find a particularly perspicacious teacher.   Given the  religion of celebrity status to which we and our children are subjected on a daily basis and ad nauseam, it is hardly surprising that the ambitions of the young are hopelessly flawed and true talent is frequently obscured by the sad ambition to be a star in the kind of fairyland set up by a spurious media.

Every child is different – their individual intellect and talents are a veritable rainbow of possibilities.   Thus it is foolish to assume that reducing all education to a single level can result in parity of achievement.   The most important factor in education is the aim to develop character, confidence and a sense of responsibility both personal and civic.

Those now master minding our education system should bear these aims in mind, rather than invoking the distractions of a class system which is long out of date.

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