|MGS did me proud - but we don't need more|
(as it happens it's not a grammar school now)
Like Theresa May, I benefited from a grammar school education and loved it, and had I not attended Manchester Grammar School, it's highly probable I would not have got into Cambridge. But the trouble with this kind of thinking is that it's typical bad analysis driven by individual experience, rather than a proper critical assessment.
As far as I can see there are two problems with grammar schools. The biggest is that they are fine for those who attend - but the remaining students who get sent of to what were called secondary moderns, in effect a second class school, suffer from this process. As a result of a single test - one that is typical of the type of test that only monitors the ability to pass that test - children are separated into sheep and goats. Families are divided. And you can say all the nice words you like about how there is no 'second best' - the fact remains that the non-grammar schools, whatever they choose to call them now, get a lower quality of teaching staff than the grammars and become educational dead ends.
The second issue is that all the actual data-driven evidence points to very little enhancement of that key driver for the supporters of grammar schools (or so they say), social mobility. When comparisons are made with comprehensives, there is little difference on the measures generally used.
It might sound as if there is an inconsistency between my comment about going to Cambridge and the previous paragraph. I was the first from my mostly working class family to go to university, and MGS helped me get to that hallowed location. The reason I say this is that what I do think is true is that grammar schools were better at taking on private schools in providing the kind of edge the top universities are looking for in a candidate. I would still have gone to university, but not to Cambridge. And that is a different measure from social mobility. I think it says more about the unfair advantages provided to private school students than it does about the benefits of grammar schools.
I'm not against streaming. Comprehensives should, and often do teach different ability students in different ways. And just because you are great at, say, maths and science, doesn't mean you'll be good at languages. Streaming is a much more flexible tool than selective schooling. But grammar schools, I would suggest, are designed to address entirely the wrong problem - how to compete with private schools. And they should be entirely removed, not encouraged.