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Selective schooling at 11 not the answer

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Here's my latest column for the Ham & High, published in the GCSE results edition on 25 August 2016.

"Today, hundreds of young people from across Haringey will discover their GCSE results with a mix of nervousness and excitement that I remember all too well. My thoughts are with them all as they find out if their hard work has paid off and move on to the next stage of their journey, whether that’s A-levels, college, apprenticeships or straight into a job.

My thoughts too are with the teachers, Heads and support staff who work so hard to provide our children with the best start in life and will be sharing in the celebration and emotion of results day.

London’s schools are a real success story. Here in Haringey the number of A-level A*-B grades is 13 per cent above the national average and at GCSE level, our schools are among the most improved in the country.

Across the capital it’s the same story. Despite high levels of deprivation, higher staff and housing costs, and an ever-growing demand for places, London’s children consistently outperform their peers at Key Stage 2 and GCSE and London has the highest percentage of schools that are good or outstanding.

This hasn’t always been the case and the transformation hasn’t happened by chance. Schemes like the London Challenge, established by the last Labour Government to ensure that every child in London received a good education, have played a key role. It did this by focusing on the things that really matter – the quality of leadership, teaching and learning and crucially combining ideas with much needed new funding.

I despair that instead of seeking to analyse and replicate the outcomes of successful programmes like this, the Conservative Government and the new Prime Minister Theresa May want to revisit discredited, outdated debates on Grammar Schools.

Selection at 11 is not the answer. Thanks to the huge progress that has been made in education across London, we have the highest social mobility and children growing up here from poorer backgrounds are much more likely to achieve good results than anywhere else. In sharp contrast, poorer children growing up in areas that still carry out selection lag behind their peers in the rest of the country.

If Theresa May meant anything on the steps of number 10 when she spoke of standing up for the many not just the privileged few, she should look to London rather than selective areas where the opposite is the case.

As your MP and Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for London, I will oppose any attempt to bring back selection and continue to fight for London’s school funding to be protected. There’s a real risk that the Tories new national funding formula could take £245 million out of London’s schools – a move that would have a devastating effect here in Hornsey and Wood Green.

London’s experience shows that it is good teaching and learning and effective leadership accompanied by sufficient funding that gets results. Not fixating on structures whether it’s Grammar Schools, Academies or Free Schools."

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Catherine West

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