Earlier this summer, I was immensely proud to see students across our borough receiving their exam results.
Both our GCSE and A-Level pupils exceeded the national average, and many will be heading off to university or into further education.
But this didn’t come as a surprise. In the last eight years, 94% of Brent’s schools have been classified as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by OFSTED. Despite being hit by Tory Government cuts harder than almost any other London borough, our pupils have continued to exceed expectations.
In Brent, our comprehensive schools draw in pupils from one of the most diverse boroughs in the country. Their achievements are not the result of selective recruitment, or segregating pupils based on attainment. Pupils from different backgrounds, ethnicities and abilities work and socialise together, supporting and encouraging one another.
And it is because of that diversity, twinned with the passion and enthusiasm of dedicated staff, that our schools such exciting and dynamic places of learning. The idea that we should dismantle this recipe for success – in the hope that a small elite may benefit at the expense of the many – goes against everything we stand for as a council, and as a Labour movement.
Grammar schools are a relic of education history. Their driving purpose is to separate - at an arbitrarily determined age - those who are able to demonstrate a very particular set of learning skills. For those fortunate enough to display them – an education filled with opportunity, advantage and expectation. For those less fortunate, the consolation prize of an under-resourced and overstretched comprehensive education.
We as a Labour Party rightly rejected this concept a long time ago. We understood that your life chances should not be determined by your ability to pass a test at the age of eleven. Opportunity should not be a privilege reserved for the elite, but the basic right of every child in this country.
What makes this plan so dangerous is not just the implications for our children’s education (although there is no doubt that comprehensive education would suffer). It’s the underlying sentiment that we, as a society, should not strive for the best possible education for every child. The answer to improving education is not separation, but unity. To bring together communities and children from every walk of life, supporting and encouraging them to achieve to the best of their abilities.
Central to everything we do in Brent is a simple tenant: no one should be left behind. That applies to all aspects of our work – in housing, in welfare and certainly in education. Brent doesn’t want grammar schools and, looking at the fantastic examination results this summer, we don’t need them.
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