Leading headteacher: Michael Gove ‘chickening out’ on return of grammar schools

In an article in the Independent, 23/05/13, Richard Garner reports on HMC head Dr Stephen Winkley's final prize day speech as head of Rossall School in which he will suggest that political pressures - from both within his own party sand his coalition partners, the Lib Dems, have stopped him from reintroducing a selective education system.

Dr Winkley will argue that - if he had really wanted to improve the chances of students from poorer backgrounds - he had only one choice to make: bring back grammar schools which, he said, had been the pathway to university for generations of bright children from less affluent backgrounds.

Whilst preparing his speech, he added: “It's true that British independent schools are still viewed as the best in the world which is why so many people from countries such as China and South Korea choose to send their children here to gain a British education.

”But apart from independent schools and the small number of academies and free schools, where are our own children likely to get the best education, small class sizes and an opportunity for the brighter children from deprived areas to achieve their full potential?

“We had the answer for many years ... it was the grammar school system and it was dispensed with by politicians who suggested it was an elitist system that catered only for the brightest children to the detriment of those less gifted.

”Ironically, the politicians who decried grammar schools were probably educating their own children at grammar schools, as many still do.“

Dr Winkley, whose school is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference - which represents 250 of the most elite public schools in the country,  also accused parents of being unworried that their children nowadays opted for ”venal footballers and publicity seeking nobodies from the latest dreadful reality TV offering“

”Unless those values change the only losers will be our children, who will be left behind in the global economy by those from nations who place greater emphasis on education and recognize that it's the oxygen of a vibrant and successful nation,“ he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Gove also came under fire from CBI Director General John Cridland last night over his clash with headteachers at the weekend when he was heckled by delegates at the National Association of Head Teachers conference.

Delivering the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust annual lecture, he said: ”It's clear the reform programme is not landing as effectively as it needs to with school leaders.

“we're not talking about union firebrands here, or of those wh wrongly oppose school accountability outright.  To deliver lasting change, the Secretary of State needs to carry these people with him.”

He added:  “It's clear, therefore, that while Whitehall may think it's playing the right music, too few people are hitting the dance floor.”

By Richard Garner, The Independent. Click here to read the article © The Independent.