Turns out that some Head Teachers are actually quite well informed about education. Who would have thought it? Indeed many of them are quite capable of understanding the obvious reality that if you select some children in for an excellent service then you are selecting a lot more children out for a worse one. A secondary modern service that tries to interest children in education who have just been segregated down at 11 and given the message that they are less worthy across the board than some of their former classmates. But Greening didn't care about listening to their expertise or those pesky fact things. She was onto a potential vote winner for her Party and proceeded to lecture them on her favourite theories.
Children are complex people. Most of them are good at some things and bad at others. Many of them change rapidly and can suddenly change their interests and improve. Almost every Head Teacher knows about this "spiky profile" of children's abilities and is fully comfortable with selection into ability groups on a subject by subject basis. Almost all subtly adjust the composition of those ability groups at least once a year and move children up or down to make sure they are learning at the pace that best suits them in that particular subject that year. So they are not opposed to grammars because of some blind and stupid resistance to all forms of selection. They are simply opposed to the utterly clumsy method of total segregation on the basis of one test at age 11 because it doesn't work. They are opposed to Grammar schools because they lower overall educational achievement. The evidence has shown it again and again.
Grammar schools achieve excellent results and the children in them prosper. Compare grammars with other schools and their results look great. But look at the full cohort in a grammar and secondary modern system and the picture is very different indeed. With a very few proud and noble exceptions secondary modern schools don't achieve excellent results. Take the results for all the children in the areas with segregated testing and compare them with children from equally well off backgrounds where there is a comprehensive system and the comps win.
So any balanced and fair person who has studied the educational evidence would not wish to undermine the work of the vast majority of those Heads by taking away the 20% of their cohort that does best on tests at age 11 and then expecting them to take the blame for the near inevitable decline in school results which follows.
That is not to suggest that nothing in the education system needs changing. We do need to strip out enormous quantities of un-necessary bureaucracy. We do need to put a greater emphasis on science and technology and prepare children much better for the rapidly changing world of work. We do need to invest to ensure learners encounter modern equipment instead of being trained on clunky technology that was bought decades ago. We do need to let teachers innovate more and be creative. And above all we do need to stop constantly re-organising the service and making it ever more complex to do a relatively simple job.
Instead of getting on with doing some of these things or just focusing on running schools rather better well the Conservative Party is wasting time, energy and a lot of money on creating Grammar Schools.
We seem to have a Conservative Party that is increasingly determined to create a society where all services are ranked heavily by class. The upper classes can pay for private education and get an excellent service. Slightly less well off parents will be able to see their child go off to a Grammar school or a religious Free School where it will be easy to attract good teachers and performance standards will be high. For the rest an underfunded service in crumbling buildings will offer little chance of acquiring the skills that will be needed in a knowledge economy.
Funding for sixth form education has been cut by 12%. Funding for younger students is being redistributed according to a "fairer" funding system. The new system has complex impacts on individual areas but overall it moves money out of inner city areas and into wealthy rural shires. The majority of schools are facing lower funding per student. Education Service Grants of £77 per pupil have been removed. Extra costs have been imposed on schools via the Apprenticeship Levy, National Insurance rises and Pension contribution increases. None have been funded.
The main cost in any school is teaching staff. Those teachers are yet again being asked to pay the price of the financial crisis by taking real term pay cuts for the 7th year running. Yet even the 1% increase in the cash they receive prior to inflation is not funded by central government. Head Teachers have been asked every year to fund the rise out of 'efficiency savings'. That usually means larger class sizes and increased workloads.
The continued increase in pointless government paperwork and bureaucracy coupled with the declining pay and the constant criticism and politicisation of the service has guaranteed that there is no real improvement in efficiency. Instead experienced and capable teachers are leaving the profession in droves and we have a serious teacher shortage. We also have a desperate shortage of teachers willing to be Heads and a rapid increase in turnover of those doing the job.
A country can only be successful if it provides all its citizens with high quality relevant skills and knowledge. Across South East Asia and in many other parts of the world countries are devoting huge resources to making sure that all their children acquire first class skills, know at least two languages and have a real solid foundation of knowledge. They are doing this because they believe that educating all their children will result in a much stronger economic performance - and also because they think it is the morally right thing to do for their future citizens.
Britain is cutting the resources available for each child, focusing them on a few elite children and demoralising the profession with a mountain of bureaucracy. Just as high quality universal education is becoming widespread across the planet the Conservative Party are giving up on providing it for the majority of UK citizens.
But cheer up. Perhaps it is all part of a plan to turn what is left of the UK into a proud independent nation trading successfully with the rest of the world.