Though Grammar schools used to offer a real hope, perhaps seen as the only hope, for bright kids from poor backgrounds, this is no longer the case. 30 years of practice have honed our ability to work the system: we help with homework, the tutor, we send our children to private prep schools, we take over primary schools and make sure that they focus on getting our children into the Grammar schools. The resulting social selection is quite clear.
We should not for a moment threaten Grammar schools -- pulling down the good because we hope to build the great is a Labour characteristic, not a Conservative one. We need to focus on building schools to suit those communities who have not managed to create good schools for themselves, and to give the school is a great deal of freedom in tackling this problem. The Academy program seems to fit that to a T.
We need to guide against central diktats -- central diktats have failed ever since the last war to produce effective schools in difficult areas. What we need is innovation, and the opportunity for a thousand headmasters and their supporters to show what can make a real difference. Once really good practice starts to emerge, then the centre should, of course, seek ways to support it and to spread it.
And if we are giving this freedom to schools and localities, perhaps some of them will choose to use it to create new grammar schools. So be it. It would not be what I would wish for myself, but again we should not impose central control. New grammar schools may well answer sectional interests in such areas as central London, where the middle classes have been driven to use independent schools because no state schools up to scratch.