North East UKIP MEP says selective education could help bridge attainment gap between state and private schools

UKIP's North East MEP Jonathan Arnott said selective education is one of the ways to give bright kids from poor backgrounds an opportunity

Jonathan Arnott
Jonathan Arnott

Nigel Farage’s plan for a “grammar school in every town” could help to bridge the attainment gap between state and private schools in the region, a North MEP has said.

UKIP’s North East MEP Jonathan Arnott said selective education is one of the ways to give bright kids from poor backgrounds a real opportunity.

He also blamed the Government’s focus on academia and one-size-fits-all curriculum for failing pupils.

“Grammar schools can mean different things to different people,” he said.

“What we’re talking about is improving social mobility; about having a system where young people from working class backgrounds can receive the kind of education that is academically focussed.

“It’s no coincidence that more children from working class backgrounds went to Oxford or Cambridge universities in the 1950s and 1960s than they do today.

“But for some people a vocational route is better. As a former teacher myself I’ve always believed that education should be about meeting the needs of the individual.

“The education system is failing young people from working class backgrounds and some form of a selection process in state-funded education would be good for our young people.”

Figures showing the top performing schools in the country were revealed in last week’s Sunday Times and the newspaper’s education editor warned of clear “performance gaps” in the region.

Sian Griffiths, who oversaw the annual Sunday Times list, said the figures revealed many state-funded schools in London and the South East “snapping at the heels” of private schools.

However, despite two North East private secondary schools appearing well-within the top 100 performing schools nationally, there are no state-funded schools in the top 100.

At primary level, three fee-paying preparatory schools appear well within the top 50 where only two state primary schools appear.

Ms Griffiths said a number of South East state schools have made the top 20 nationally for both lists.

“There’s a smaller attainment gap between the top state and private schools in London,” she told The Journal.

“There are some very good grammar schools in London and these schools select the brightest and most hard-working students.

“This is probably a very big factor in terms of performance tables.

Mr Arnott criticised academies for creating a “false choice” for young people.

He said: “Families can’t just say, there’s a science academy 20 miles away, we will send our children there.

“It’s about recognising that children learn differently.”

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