THE idea of opening a new grammar school in Basildon has been mooted with councillors calling on one of Southend’s four selective schools to expand into the borough.
Amanda Arnold, Tory councillor for Pitsea South East, has urged existing grammar schools to consider a Basildon annexe “for the benefit of future generations”.
Government policy does not allow new grammar schools to be created, so Ms Arnold proposed an existing school setting up a Basildon campus.
There is precedent for such a move – in October a “new” grammar school was approved in Sevenoaks, Kent, which will officially be an annexe of an existing school in nearby Tonbridge.
Should there be more grammar schools in south Essex?
He supports the idea of providing a grammar school in Basildon, believing it would take some of the pressure off other grammar schools in south Essex which were taking pupils from outside the area.
He added: “I believe on the basis of the evidence that there are a certain number of children who would benefit from the intensive academic curriculum that grammar schools provide.
“I think there is good evidence that grammar schools do benefit children that are of a strong academic bent and in doing so can encourage strong social mobility.”
After leaving the Westcliff school, the 72-year-old went on to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University in the 1960s and believed the grounding he had at grammar school benefited him at Oxford.
“It is the intensity of the education you have at grammar schools. It is very one-to-one focused and the benefits are very clear from the results.
“When you look at the grammar school results, our own grammar schools in Southend have consistently outstanding results at GCSE and A-Level, but then they should because they are selective,” Mr Norman added.
Mr Norman, who went on to become a national trade union officer with the Communication Workers Union, said different types of schools would benefit different students, with some being more suited to a comprehensive education or vocational training.
He added: “I think it is a question of having schools which fit the ability of the child and some children are more capable than others of having an intensive academic education, while others benefit from other schools and our local comprehensives are good in some cases. I would not say they are better than the others. I would say it is horses for courses.”
AGAINST: Councillor Julian Ware-Lane is a Labour councillor for Milton ward in Southend and a former pupil at Fairfax High School and Chase High School in Southend.
He was particularly opposed to the selection process that grammar schools use to take on pupils.
He added: “I don’t like selection at all. I think children should be chosen from the local area, based on all abilities. I think it is better for the children and better for the community and environment as well.
“I think selection creates elitism, I don’t think it is educationally productive, but I am not opposed to streaming especially in PE, art or maybe maths.
“I don’t see why some children who are struggling or have behavioural problems can’t be held back. They should not be able to hold back children who want to get on.”
After finishing at his secondary modern school, Mr Ware-Lane left school after his O levels and worked for customs and excise (now HMRC) before becoming an IT consultant.
In this role, he has worked for a number of high profile companies including British Gas, IBM and Vodafone.
The 56-year-old, who lives in Cromwell Road, Southend, added: “I am concerned that it becomes a test of means with grammar schools as parents who can afford to provide their children with coaching will give them an advantage when it comes to grammar school selection.
“I want every child to have the best education they can get, but I don’t want the children of parents who don’t have the biggest pockets to miss out.”