Education isn't like it was when I were a lad. Back in the 1960s at Meadow Lane Infants and later at College House Junior School, the uniform had just been abolished. Homework was a dire threat that people at secondary school talked about, and in 4th year at juniors (aka Year 6) we had a cool teacher who filled lesson with interesting music and craft projects. We even made pottery in a kiln, little suspecting that our children would be doing SATS at the same stage in their education.
At some point I have vague memories of my parents talking about the fact that grammar schools were to be abolished and a new comprehensive school was being built locally. In a last ditch attempt to get me to what they saw as a better school I was duly entered into exams which subsequently gave me a scholarship covering all the fees for me to go to Nottingham High School. Although state grammar schools had gone by the time I started there, the local authority continued to make these awards for a places at this independent school, so off I went.
Wind forwards 30 odd years and uniforms are back, primary school kids get homework, and we even still have grammar schools in some counties, including Lancashire. Despite having benefited from a highly selective school system myself, I have to admit that deep down I believe in a fully comprehensive education system. Something in me just isn't convinced that people's educational fate can be decided by an exam at 11. The problem is that the implementation of comprehensive education had early failures. It's notable that local schools which have a non-selective intake refer to themselves as 'high schools' not comprehensives. However, given we have a grammar system round here, I fully understand people participating in it; I just wouldn't have designed it that way in the first place.
Of course, selective schools get the results at GCSE and A level - they ought to, as they start with the brightest kids. My school was no exception - it was very efficient. There were lots of A grades even when they were relatively scarce, and a batch of boys off to Oxford and Cambridge each year. But is that everything that education is about?
I know people will regard this as education heresy, but it's an important question to ask. Some advocates point out that selective education can also be a source of social mobility and I guess it was for me. I ended up at secondary school and University with all sorts of people I would never have met otherwise (including former education minister Lord Adonis!). But my being lucky doesn't make the system the best we could have; it just means I was lucky.