The Sunday Telegraph recently reported that PM Theresa May was planning to scrap the ban on new grammar schools in a bid to boost “social mobility”. Opposition has been widespread but it seems that the myths about the efficacy of grammar schools being engines of social mobility still persist despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Professor Selina Todd’s 2014 Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture provides a coruscating analysis of the case for grammar schools and dispatches the arguments still deployed by anecdotalists in favour of their retention and/or expansion.
Professor Todd’s contention is that ‘The myth of the grammar schools that this lecture addresses is really two myths. First, that grammar schools promoted social mobility, a myth peddled at the time and since. ‘We are creating a new middle class,’ declared the headmaster of Manchester Grammar School in 1958. ‘[T]he grammar schools are really the spearhead of the movement of social mobility.’ We hear much the same from politicians of all parties, from Nigel Farage promoting the return to the 11 plus through to Labour’s Alan Milburn and the Commission on Social Mobility, whose reports identify grammar school education as one factor in explaining upward mobility into the professions. The second myth is that social mobility is a civic or social benefit that a ‘good’ education system should promote. In fact promoting social mobility simply reinforces inequality.’
You can read or listen to Selina Todd’s lecture in full here: https://socialisteducationalassociation.org/caroline-benn-memorial-lectures/