Brady's stance on Grammar Schools

Read the newstatesman.com article that led to Tory frontbencher Graham Brady quitting as shadow Euro

Graham Brady has quit the Conservative frontbench over his opposition to David Cameron's policy on Grammar Schools. Below you can read the article that the Altrincham and Sale West MP wrote for newstatesman.com two weeks ago in which he set out his views. It was subsequently picked up elsewhere in the media and subsequently led to his resignation.

Explaining his decision on 29 May Mr Brady said: "Faced with a choice between a front bench position that I have loved and doing what I believe to be right for my constituents and for the many hundreds of thousands of families who are ill-served by state education in this country, there is in conscience only one option open to me."

Brady's original article on Grammar Schools:

I am a product of Trafford’s outstanding selective education system. The fact is that if Altrincham Grammar School had been a comprehensive, my parents would not have been able to afford to buy a house in the catchment area.

In his book with Stephen Pollard, A Class Act (1998), Andrew Adonis (later to become Tony Blair’s Education Minister) says: "The comprehensive revolution, tragically, destroyed much of the excellent without improving the rest. Comprehensive schools have largely replaced selection by ability with selection by class and house price. Middle class children now go to middle class comprehensives, whose catchment areas comprise middle-class neighbourhoods, while working class children are mostly left to fester in inner-city comprehensives their parents cannot afford to move away from."

Social mobility has declined since the introduction of comprehensives; if we had tried to invent a system to entrench social inequality I cannot think of anything which would achieve it quite so effectively as the so-called comprehensive revolution.

It is certainly not a charge which can be aimed at the remaining grammar schools. Grammar schools were abolished in inner city areas where a high proportion of pupils qualify for free schools meals, so the fact that a relatively low proportion of pupils at grammar schools qualify for free school meals is not all that surprising.

The point is that where children from poorer backgrounds do attend grammar school they do extremely well. Indeed, where selection survives, the evidence is that it works best for all children – in high schools as well as in grammar schools - that is why selective authorities top the league tables. In the Greater Manchester borough of Trafford over 70% of children get five or more good GCSEs, in Bury, with a similar socio-economic profile the figure is 59%, in leafier Cheshire it is 61.9%.

According to DfES figures, selective systems also deliver better results for every ethnic group with some doing extremely well; the percentage of Indian children getting 5A* - C grades at GCSE in comprehensive areas is an impressive 68.9%; in selective areas the figure is 81.2%. For Bangladeshi children the numbers are 55.8% in comprehensives, 70.9% in selective areas.

In a really effective selective system such as that in Trafford where 40% of children go to grammar schools and those who do not, go to an excellent high school; the effect of the exam at 11 means that the standards across the primary schools are high.

It means that at the age of 11, standards in Trafford are at the top of the league tables, on a par with leafy Richmond-upon-Thames. The difference is that by GCSE Richmond has slid down the achievement tables whereas Trafford remains at the top and is at the top again for A level. At Wellington School in my constituency, last year 72% of pupils got 5A* - C GCSEs; the national average was 59%. Is it a grammar? No, a high school, with rigorous teaching and high standards, where the top 40% of the ability band has gone to the local grammar school.

People have said that grammars are dominated by the middle class. The fact is that because so many grammars were closed, those that remain in pockets like Sutton or Kingston are hugely oversubscribed and fought for by desperate parents who want a decent education but cannot afford school fees. It is still a fairer system to select by ability than by the price of your house. There are no grammars left in our inner cities and I agree that, of the schools currently available in our inner cities, the academies are probably the best way forward for raising standards. However I believe that if grammar schools were available in our inner cities it would have a major impact in raising standards and on the number of bright pupils from poor backgrounds going on to university. Those who argue that grammar schools are somehow irrelevant to the debate would do well to come and examine the way selection works for all pupils, across the board, in Trafford.

Graham Brady is shadow minister for Europe and MP for Altrincham and Sale West

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The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times