Choice of Education
In the County of Kent we enjoy, I would argue, amongst the best and widest choice of education available in the United Kingdom. The availability of a mix of Grammar and High Schools, Sports and Technology colleges, Anglican and Catholic Faith foundation schools, private and state-funded special needs schools and some of the best remaining public schools in the country offers precisely the kind of social mobility that I believe every County and every political party ought to aspire to.
When I took the eleven plus and was sent, myself, to a boarding grammar school (Kent still has two such schools) it was arguable that there was a strong element of "pass or fail" in the system. You passed, and went on to succeed, or you failed and went to secondary modern school. From there you might also succeed but with much greater difficulty.
It seems to have escaped the notice of some that this situation no longer prevails. We have, over the years, got to grips with the "one size fits all" approach to education and Kent has created, instead, a real opportunity for the academic, the technical, the physical and the creative (and all four) to achieve. That, to me, is what secondary education is all about. We have a structure that will allow virtually any young person from any background to identify and realise the potential and the gifts that they are all in some way blessed with.
The Conservative party has announced that while it will not abolish existing Grammar Schools it will no longer promote selective education by school. (How it will handle admissions to Faith schools which are, of course, selective, is an issue that appears to have been overlooked). Instead, we now subscribe to streaming. Forgive me, but are not schools already streamed? And is there not already a largely failed comprehensive establishment that is widely regarded as over-large and impersonal?
On the back of a brief experiment, under Margaret Thatcher, with City Technology Colleges funded and backed by industry we are now to nail our colours to the mast of Blairite "City Academies" that are, as yet, unproven.
I cannot deny that huge sums of money have been generously given by private citizens to create fine new buildings and nor do I question the dedication and determination of those teaching within these new buildings. I wish them well. The jury is, though, very much out. Results and only results will show, in five or ten years time, whether City Academies really are a significant part of the solution to secondary education or whether they represent yet another fashionable but passing trend.
In the meantime I shall personally continue to strive to protect and promote that which we have and hold. I want young people to leave school literate and numerate, able, from whatever walk of life, to develop to the full their talents and to move on to live successful, spiritually rich and rewarding lives. The system that we have in place is not perfect - no system ever is - but I believe that for the foreseeable future it offers a better chance of success that most other options that have been tried, tested and found wanting