Predictably there was a gigantic rush to condemn Theresa May when she announced plans for a new generation of grammar schools in her 'meritocracy' speech last month. I say predictably because the argument about grammar schools is done. Piles of hard, incontrovertible evidence prove the grammar system does little to improve social mobility for the majority of 'ordinary, working class' families and in fact achieves the reverse, having a particularly negative effect on the poorest children.
It's tedious therefore that we are forced to rehash these arguments all over again - given the facts available. What I find more depressing however is when politicians and campaigners, such as Shami Chakrabarti, espouse the unfairness of grammars and selective schooling, only to conveniently overlook that fact when it comes to their own offspring.
“I have real concerns about grammar schools,” Shami said on ITV’s Peston on Sunday, this week when asked about Labour’s opposition to selective education - before admitting she, in fact, sends her own son to a private school, Dulwich College, at a cost of £18,000 a year”.
Shami is not the first, and certainly won’t be the last politician, to display such striking hypocrisy. There has been an unseemly number of politicians (from across the political divide) who have railed against selective schooling in recent years - only to merrily pack their kids off to fee paying or grammar schools. Shami however surely wins the prize for being the most brazen, given her impressive track record of campaigning for rights and equality.
I’m a parent, I understand - you want the best for your child. However, I find it simply incongruous that someone who campaigns so passionately (and so publicly) for a fairer society can then send their child to a fee-paying school. Even more pernicious, it weakens and undermines the voracity of the argument against a selective system - as it renders any opposition completely devoid of any credibility.
As education journalist, Louise Tickle writes in the Guardian, yesterday:
“No unfair system was ever overturned by people carrying on using it for their own selfish ends while spouting their dismay…Arguments against selection are fatally compromised when the very people one might normally expect to challenge unfairness, and who have the political heft to do it wave Charlie and Clara off to the local grammar every morning”.
Or as Francis Ryan, also reporting in the Guardian, said:
“It’s the smell of hypocrisy of so-called out-of-touch elites that turns voters off politics: one rule for me and another for you. Right or wrong, that’s even more the case when you’re talking about the need for a fair and equal education, when you’re trying to make the case for a society that cares about the life chances of all children, not just our own. If the left really wants to win the argument for equality, it can’t publicly argue for collective responsibility and privately duck out in the name of individualism. Words are easy. Actions are altogether more difficult”.