The Today programme has run a debate on social mobility, asking why after ten years of a Labour government, it is harder today for bright kids from poor backgrounds to succeed than it was decades ago. Yet they’ve failed to see the obvious conclusion. I can tell them in two words: comprehensive education. The ideologically-driven policy to force equality in schools has had the perverse effect of entrenching privilege (which is why Graham Brady was right about grammar schools).
But the Sutton Trust, which did the research on which the debate is based, has the wrong end of the stick. It complains that children who do well at school usually have well-educated middle class parents, as though this were evidence for privilege and discrimination. It is no such thing. It is evidence of heredity.
The fact is that bright kids tend to have bright parents. And bright parents tend to be well-educated and well-off. But of course there are also bright kids from poor backgrounds, and the real crime is that we used to have an education system that gave them a ladder to success, yet now we have deliberately kicked that ladder away. As a grammar-school boy, I got a much better education in the fifties than most state schools deliver today.
Smarter than the Sutton Trust, the highly-respected Economic Research Council, in a June 26th report, calls for new grammar schools to bring back opportunity and social mobility. They (and Graham Brady) are right.