Idea 6: abolish the 11+

A nice easy idea after the more technical two I've proposed recently...

I grew up in Buckinghamshire where every child takes the 11+ and are then split into those who are more academically minded and those who aren't and sent to Grammar schools for the former and Secondary Moderns for the latter, even if you agree with this principle I'm afraid it isn't the 1950s and this selective system no longer works like this in practice.

A few years ago Andrew Neil made a programme about social mobility and expected to conclude that as it was Grammar School system he credited with supporting his own social mobility that the answer to Britain's declining social mobility would be to restore them nationwide. Yet Neil (no leftie I'm sure you'll agree!) concluded that Grammar Schools are no longer great levellers lifting up talented working class kids and helping them smash glass ceilings in Whitehall, the media, law or the City. Instead wealthy parents now sent their children to prep schools or spend large amounts of money on personal tutors to ensure their child passes the 11+ whilst those without such advantages naturally tend to fail. 

The test used in Buckinghamshire was revised last year to try and address this problem but initial findings suggest they've made it worse.  

I remember the feeling of being a failure that not passing your 11+ brings. Seeing parents overjoyed that their son or daughter had passed, another - of considerable wealth - in tears and promising to appeal as their son had missed by a few points; all this while people like me are being told 'oh it doesn't mean you're a failure', maybe not officially but it sure feels like it. 

I was lucky, my secondary modern school (now rated 'requires improvement' by Ofsted) was at the time led by some inspirational teachers in the leadership roles. I received a great education that helped re-build my confidence, shaped the person I am today and I also met some great friends some of whom I still hold dear to this day. I was also elected Head Boy so I did alright out of it but many of the non-Grammar schools in the area at the time weren't so good. 

So if I'm on the National Policy Forum I will push for Labour adopt the policy of finishing the job of installing a truly comprehensive system nationwide, I want to abolish the 11+ system. I want to abolish it because I don't think it's right to separate people at such a young age, I think the test is little more than a glorified IQ test and the system is being gamed by wealthy parents.  

If we are serious about addressing social mobility we need to be brave enough to open the Grammar Schools up to a comprehensive intake.