Why UKIP would bring back Grammar Schools

Nathan Gill says that choice is needed in our education system.

Perhaps the most distinctive devolved policy that UKIP are pushing ahead of the Welsh Assembly Elections is the commitment to bring back Grammar Schools to Wales.

The Assembly election 2016

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Selective education has been demonised over the last couple of decades by politicians across all other parties, and has become the political taboo of education policy. However UKIP strongly believes that without choice in education, the one-size-fits-all education strategy pushed by all other parties will continue to fail our children and compress standards in schools.
UKIP believes that not all children are the same, and equally develop at different rates throughout their education career. This is clear as almost every school in the country currently places pupils into sets or streams based upon their progress. Education policy should not only recognise these differences, but celebrate them, by giving pupils the chance to mould their studies to fit the skills and ambitions unique to them.
Not only would UKIP want to see the reintroduction of Grammar Schools, with the duty of adopting a minimum intake requirement of at least 10% of pupils from low income backgrounds, but also wants to see University Technical Colleges offer a wide range of professional and vocational courses backed by industry, helping to train the workforce of the future.
UTCs would provide a strong platform of excellent academic education but also enable world leading technical specialisms to be developed, with students able to benefit from the latest research, access to industry experts and specialist facilities with real life employer projects to develop technical skills fit for entering the workplace, spanning a range of industries and supported by successful businesses and big employers in Wales.
Pupils would then be able to combine both academic and practical education depending on their abilities and career aspirations.
Critics of Grammar Schools have long argued that they are too decisive in disadvantaging some students at the expense of others through an early selection process. UKIP recognises that Grammar Schools are not only backed by a majority of parents, but are a great boon to social mobility for students wanting to pursue an academic route currently dominated by those in private education, making it harder for pupils at state schools, and especially from poorer backgrounds, to attend the country’s leading universities. It is wrong that these great seats of learning have been abolished to sate the thirst for extreme political correctness.
In order to drive up academic standards, UKIP believes that by providing a rigorous learning environment for those students that wish to focus on scholarly pursuits is as valuable as ensuring that there are excellent centres of learning for students who do not want to base their development entirely on a purely academic basis.
Meanwhile UKIP believes that practical and vocational training must not be sacrificed at the altar of targets for university intake, which leave many graduates with large loans and limited career prospects in the real world. There should be no stigma or shame for those who determine they would rather pursue a more practical education, which would be backed up by high standards of academic development, providing them with key skills and vital industry links to help them enter professions in manufacturing, technology, design, business, hospitality and agriculture and a range of other fields.
For too long the focus has been on getting young people into further education, arguably to help massage youth unemployment figures for those ‘not in education, employment or training’ while importing skilled workers from abroad when employers complain that many domestic students are not workplace-ready.
UKIP recognises that flexibility is vital, and opportunities must not be stifled after a prescribed cut-off date which risks becoming definitive in a child’s educational development.
In order to make the system fairer UKIP would allow Grammar School entrance exams to be taken at ages 12, 13 and 16, recognising that not all children develop at the same rate. We would also like to see all pupils given the opportunity to convert to or combine education in academic as well as professional and vocational areas, enabling students to embrace a bespoke study pathway that will better engage and inspire pupils in the classroom while leaving them with the necessary skills to find employment or continue their studies.
The current system sees all pupils funnelled through a very narrow causeway that fails to identify the vast differences between possible learning streams. The result is an education system where everyone must conform to one single route, and is assessed by one set of standards, creating a binary determination of either success or failure, which can really harm pupil development. Instead we believe in a more holistic approach that recognises the importance of preparing the next generation to be the workforce of the future and identifying the worth in every single child.
UKIP believes it’s about time we broke the taboo of grammar schools, and provide the opportunity for children from any walk of life to go to top universities, but also equally believes that the time has come to shatter the glass ceiling for pupils who don’t get the top grades and scrap the stigma for those who are gifted in a whole range of other areas.
UKIP’s policy on selective education places the power of selection where it belongs: into the hands of tomorrow’s workers, where they get to select on an ongoing basis how to build and shape their own futures.

Nathan Gill is the Leader of UKIP in Wales.

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