Forty years ago, Prime Minister James Callaghan gave a speech on education at Ruskin College. It was a landmark statement which changed political attitudes to schooling. Previously politicians had not commented on what happened inside schools. Since the speech they have hardly stopped doing so.

On 17th November a seminar in the House of Lords will explore the speech and its significance. Was this the turning point towards the regime of hyper-accountability and performance tables we now see dominating English education?

Speakers will be Lord Bernard Donoughue, Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit in 1976, Lord David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education 1997-2001, and Fiona Millar, journalist and broadcaster. Chair Professor Richard Pring, University of Oxford.

The event will run from 1600 to 1800 hours. Full details and booking form and be obtained from – click on the Eventbrite box to book a FREE TICKET.

No Return to Selection: Day Conference 12 November

Kevin Courtney, NUT General Secretary, is joining a high class line up for this year’s Reclaiming Education conference at NUT HQ, Hamilton House in Central London.

He will be joining Professor Anne West from the LSE, Melissa Benn, SEA Vice President, Roy Perry, Leader of Hampshire County Council, Richy Thompson from the British Humanists Association and the Fair Admissions campaign and Jo Bartley from the Kent anti-selection campaign.

Places can be booked at

Danny Dorling to give this year’s Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture

This year’s lecture will be delivered by Professor Danny Dorling. The theme will be“The Education Shuffle: What will the next two steps forward be?” It will explore the impact of comprehensive education, the ways in which that progress has been compromised and what the next steps forward need to be.

It will be held on at 6.00 pm Tuesday 15th November in Committee Room 10 at the House of Commons.

When Professor Dorling’s book “Injustice: Why Social Inequality Persists” was published, the Guardian wrote “Dorling is that rare university professor: expert, politically engaged and able to explain simply why his subject matters. He describes modern Britain as the most unequal society since Dickens’s times, and picks apart the orthodoxies that allow such unfairness. “I’m hardly saying, we want a revolution, we want a utopia,” he recently told this paper. “I’m just saying, can we be slightly less stupid, and we’ll all be better off for it.”

There is no charge for this event and places are likely to be in great demand. To book a place please e mail as soon as possible.

The end of selection moves a step closer as Labour resolves to establish ‘in all areas a genuinely comprehensive and inclusive secondary education system.’

Sarah Williams, SEA

Sarah Williams, SEA

The SEA delegate to Labour Conference 2016, Sarah Williams, proposed an historic motion earlier today calling for the establishment of comprehensive education throughout the secondary education system and an end to selection and segregation. The motion passed today at conference is as follows:

Conference abhors the Government proposal to encourage the creation of more Grammar Schools in England. Conference believes education is a collective good that benefits, not just individual pupils/students but society as a whole. Conference views the recent proposals set forth by Justine Greening MP for Putney to expand grammar schools and to remove the cap on faith-based admissions as divisive. Conference believes that the best interests of all children, and the country, would be better served by providing adequate resources for all schools to match the highest achieving ones. Conference notes that grammar schools fail the poorest students “less than 3% of their students are eligible for free school meals (FSM), whereas the average proportion in selective areas is 18%” and that grammar schools encourage inequality. Since there is no evidence that grammar schools improve social mobility or educational outcomes conference condemns this proposal as a retrograde step. Conference recognises that the purpose of education should be to provide all children, irrespective of background or specific needs, with the skills, knowledge enthusiasm an understanding necessary to lead a rewarding and fulfilling life. Conference therefore commits the Labour Party to opposing any expansion to selective education and also to the establishment in all areas of a genuinely comprehensive and inclusive secondary education system that provides for all children according to their needs as well as ensuring a greater voice for councillors, parents and professionals.

You can watch Sarah giving her speech here or listen to a recording of it here:

SEA asks the Labour conference to reject all 11+ selection.

edbpltcscoversept2016On Tuesday SEA’s delegate, Sarah Williams, will move the resolution on selective schooling at the Labour Conference. The resolution, if passed, will represent a significant moment in the long struggle against selection. It not only asks the party to oppose the current government proposals but also makes the case for the phasing out of all remaining selective education. The full text is in the previous post on this page.

The latest issue of the SEA journal, Education Politics, addresses the issues around selection in detail. It contains an analysis of the arguments by Melissa Benn as well as a number of personal testimonies to the value of comprehensive schooling. It can be accessed here: education-politics-september-2016.

Defeating the government’s proposals won’t be easy. Ending selection everywhere will be even harder. So we would encourage all Labour members and supporters who want to be part of that campaign to join the SEA – just follow the tab on the top of this page.

Labour Conference 2016 delegates asked to support SEA motion to end selection in state-funded schools

John Bolt, SEA Secretary

John Bolt, SEA Secretary

John Bolt, SEA Secretary, has called on SEA members and others attending Labour Party conference to support our motion on grammar schools in the ballot this coming Sunday.

John says, ‘ This is a critical issue. We need to take every opportunity to make the case against this appalling proposal. It is also an opportunity to make the case for taking action to phase out all selection wherever it remains.’ He added, ‘I would like to ask all SEA members to do what they can to persuade their conference delegates to vote for this resolution in the priorities ballot on Sunday. A number of CLPs have submitted similar motions but we need to maximise support for it so that it reaches the conference agenda.’

The text of the motion is as follows:

Conference deplores the Prime Minister’s threat “to launch a new generation of grammar schools by scrapping the ban on them imposed almost 20 years ago”, reported in the Daily Telegraph on 6th August;

regrets that a selective system continues in force in parts of the country;

is aware that research evidence, both in England and internationally, shows that that selective schools do not promote social mobility or contribute to the raising of standards.

recognises that the purpose of education should be to provide all children, irrespective of background or specific needs, with the skills, knowledge, enthusiasm and understanding necessary to lead a rewarding and fulfilling life. Labelling children as failures before education has given them the chance to develop, which is what selection does, is one of the prime causes of division and unfairness in our society.

therefore commits the party to opposing any expansion to selective education and also to the ending of educational selection in all state funded schools through the establishment in all areas of a genuinely comprehensive and inclusive secondary education system that provides for all children according to their needs.’

SEA in Leeds 17th September

The next SEA Members’ Meeting will take place from 2.00 to 4.00 pm on Saturday 17th September in Rooms 1 and 2 at Leeds Civic Hall, Calverley St, Leeds LS1 1UR (booked in the name of Councillor Alex Sobel)

There will be two discussion items:

  1. Comprehensive Education and Social Justice: the forward march of progress halted?

Professor Howard Stevenson will discuss this theme which is of course of very particular relevance in the light of current government proposals.

Howard Stevenson is Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Nottingham University and among other roles is co-Editor of the journal Forum that was originally founded by Professor Brian Simon over 50 years ago. The journal continues to challenge the (re-emerging) orthodoxy of fixed ability thinking and practice, whilst also making the case for the democratic control of education and education as a public good.

  1. Phasing out Elitist Education

The following resolution was passed by the SEA Annual Conference in June and was referred to the Executive for more detailed debate:

This meeting believes that privately educated alumni’s disproportionate occupation of positions of power and influence across key professions and political institutions undermines both the spirit and practice of democracy in the UK and it instructs the NEC to report back on how the  influence of private education might be reduced or possibly abolished.

The SEA Executive will meet in the same location from 12.15 to 1.30. All SEA members are welcome at both these meetings.



SEA mourns the passing of Ken Purchase

The SEA was very saddened to learn that Ken Purchase, Labour MP 1992-2010 and Vice President of SEA died yesterday.

John Bolt, SEA General Secretary, said, ‘Ken was a very active supporter of SEA and was instrumental in setting up the parliamentary branch and enhancing our relationships in Parliament. He will be a huge loss to SEA and to many of us who know him and hugely enjoyed his company.’