But those who think Sir Peter is wrong-headed should reflect seriously on what their alternative to the status quo is.
Sure, everyone on the liberal-left champions the comprehensive ideal that all local state schools should be great schools — but decades later we’re still waiting. And in the meantime thousands of pupils are losing out each and every year, while the intelligentsia which wrings its hands at the thought of selection by merit happily games the system to ensure their own kids don’t suffer.Like Stephen, I am attracted to this idea but feel a little guilty about it. But the size of the problem with the current system was brought home by the recent two-part BBC4 documentary on the history of grammar schools. It quoted figures showing how the percentage of state schools pupils at Oxbridge has declined since the 1960s.
A Spectator Coffee House article by Peter Hoskin quoted much the same figures in a passage from A Class Act by Andrew Adonis and Stephen Pollard:
Modern mythology has it that the number of privately educated children at Oxbridge is on a steadily declining path. And indeed it was - in the heyday of the state grammar schools in the 1960s. By 1969 only 38 per cent of places at Oxford were awarded to private educated children - a sharp reduction for the private schools even on their 1965 proportion. And yet in the 1990s, thanks to the destruction of the grammar schools and the consequent decamping to the private sector of many of the most able children, the figure now hovers around the 50 per cent mark.