This is not exactly the best way to motivate a child to succeed. Children tend to be good at some things and bad at others. As an ex teacher I am the first to admit that it is often better to teach kids in a system where there is streaming on the basis of ability within a school. That way you can let kids enjoy learning as fast and as hard as they can. You can also, in a sensibly organised system, devote extra resources to making sure that every child that possibly can gets to the level of English and Maths that they need. To give the Liberal Democrats one crumb of comfort for joining the coalition, their excellent pupil premium scheme put the resources into schools to allow them to do exactly that.
But kids aren't brilliant at every subject or lousy at everything. They have a mixture of talents. I, for example, was really good at maths and could work at a fast pace at that. I was partly dyslexic and poor at English so I needed help and a slower pace at that. When it came to languages I had a strong tendency to struggle to rote learn anything and to pronounce French in a Stoke accent. This didn't make me ideal material for the top class.
Few children have a problem at being in the same school as everyone else and being streamed in particular subjects to work at the level that gives them the best chance. Virtually any child is going to be de-motivated and somewhat sullen over being defined as a failure in everything.
So the impact of grammar schools is clear and has been known by educationalists for a very long time. The kids that get in to them do really well and the schools are fantastic. The kids that don't get in do really badly and the schools they are sent to struggle at best or are downright awful. There are usually a lot more in the second category.
For this reason it is currently against the law to open a new selected school in the UK. And the Conservatives are promising us very sincerely that they will not change that law. The new caring sharing Conservative party wouldn't think of doing anything to harm the educational prospects of the poor and benefit children of the more affluent. Instead, they tell us, all they are going to do is to allow good grammar schools to expand. Variety of choice is a good thing they tell us and who could possibly not want an excellent school to be allowed to expand?
These schools could, of course, expand very helpfully by deciding to admit all the kids in their locality regardless of their ability and by making sure every one of those kids had the benefits of the excellent managerial skills of the head teacher and the brilliant classroom control methods of the top class grammar school teachers. But they won't do that. The head and the teachers at most grammar schools would be scared rigid by the idea that they might be asked to teach any kids from a deprived community.
I taught for years and managed colleges in some of the most deprived parts of the country including Willesden, Vauxhall, Hillsborough and Keighley. I can tell you from personal experience that almost any teacher can handle working with motivated capable kids in an atmosphere of success. It is an awful lot harder to teach kids who have been defined as failures and have had to construct for themselves a defence mechanism of believing that education isn't for them and they hate it. Many brilliant teachers achieve exactly that day in day out but it is a really hard energy sapping thing to do and desperately tempting to take an easier job in the neighbouring grammar school where everyone passes. Grammar schools tend to suck the best teachers out of the neighbouring schools along with the most capable students.
Instead of expanding by letting in a wider variety of ability groups the grammar schools that are looking to expand are operating in a more entrepreneurial spirit. They are just going to move into a new area and cream off the kids who are easy to teach there and leave the other local schools to deal with all the problem kids with next to none of the ones that demonstrate to others that learning really can pay off. The new grammar school annex is almost certain to be a success. The overall success of the project should be judged not by the excellent Ofsted marks it will undoubtedly gain. It should be judged by counting up how many of the neighbouring schools get judged as inadequate and are forced into special measures and how many kids get a much worse education because of that.
Allowing grammar schools to open new annexes is an obvious trick. The first one is only 7 miles from its parent school. But what distance is now considered reasonable for an annex? Would 20 miles be OK? How about 100? How many grammar schools are going to be allowed the freedom to expand at gradually increasing distances from their original location and at risk of severe damage to the neighbouring schools?
There is now a network of academy chains that operate across the country. Many of them are excellent operations with a genuine social conscience and a real interest in the education of kids. Some of them are not. What is to stop one of the more unscrupulous conglomerates from deciding to change the arrangements and make all of their schools annexes of one that happens to be a grammar school? They could then introduce selection into completely new areas.
Hopefully this is a seriously exaggerated and alarmist suggestion. I make it merely meant to point out that there are now no obvious limits in where a school can decide to open an annex. The Conservatives have decided that directly switching to a grammar school system in one go is too politically sensitive. So instead they are going to allow the creeping introduction of grammar schools by stealth.
This seems to be in line with their overall policy stance. Say one thing but do another. They were going to be the greenest government ever. They have scrapped all solar subsidies destroying three major solar companies and 2,000 solar jobs in a single month. They are in favour of the big society. But they have cut voluntary sector funding to the bone. They are the party of the working poor. So they cut tax credits and leave working single parents £1,300 worse off every year. And they are not in favour of a selective school system.
They just want to bring it in nice and quietly with the least political fuss they can muster. Cynical doesn't begin to cover it.