Labour Party Conference:join the important debate on selection

Melissa Benn's picture

John Bolt of the SEA writes:


Teresa May’s decision to re-open the issue of grammar schools – and secondary moderns - has trained a spotlight directly on the entire issue of selection. It is not however going the way she expected. The intellectual and political case for selection has collapsed.

 In today’s world, we need to give all our children, particularly those from the poorest families, every opportunity to succeed. If it is agreed that extending selection damages both social cohesion and children’s learning, there can surely be no case either for accepting its continuation anywhere in the country. 

It is time therefore to challenge the long held position within successive Labour leaderships that nothing should be done about those selective areas and schools that still exist.

A contemporary resolution submitted by the SEA and a number of constituency parties to this effect has been accepted by Labour’s Conference Arrangements Committee. The motion reads:



  1. deplores the Prime Minister’s threat “to launch a new generation of grammar schools by scrapping the ban on them imposed almost 20 years ago”, reported in the Daily Telegraph on 6th August;
  2. regrets that a selective system continues in force in parts of the country;
  3. is aware that research evidence, both in England and internationally, shows that that selective schools do not promote social mobility or contribute to the raising of standards.
  4. recognises that the purpose of education should be to provide all children, irrespective of background or specific needs, with the skills, knowledge, enthusiasm and understanding necessary to lead a rewarding and fulfilling life. Labelling children as failures before education has given them the chance to develop, which is what selection does, is one of the prime causes of division and unfairness in our society.
  5. therefore commits the party to opposing any expansion to selective education and also to the ending of educational selection in all state funded schools through the establishment in all areas of a genuinely comprehensive and inclusive secondary education system that provides for all children according to their needs.”

It now goes to a ballot of conference delegates to decide whether it will be debated. This takes place on Sunday. It is therefore really important to encourage as many conference delegates as possible to support it in that ballot.

 This is the first opportunity for a long time to make the argument against all selection heard. There is a broad coalition emerging against the government plans and this is an opportunity to shift Labour policy towards a principled opposition to grammar schools both old and new.




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Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 20/09/2016 - 19:20

John is right that May's proposals to extend selection have put the spotlight on grammar schools.  The system has been shown up for what it is: unfair, inequitable, damaging to the education system as a whole and harmful to those children living in selective areas who aren't selected (the majority).  Most LAs recognised this decades ago yet the system remains in a few pockets.   It's now time to say selection should go the same way as corporal punishment.  All state-funded secondary schools should accept children of all abilities and not choose which taxpayers' children they will educate.

Robbie's picture
Wed, 16/11/2016 - 15:05

This is all very well, but why does one of the founders of this site still have selection at the school to which she is Chair of Governors?

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