Are our schools really failing?

Topic Selected: Education

General Article icon Type: General Article

By Fiona Miller


The received wisdom in parts ofthe media is as follows:

  • State schools are getting worse.
  • The £37 billion spent on them (a 74% increase in real terms) since 1997 has been wasted.
  • There was once a ‘golden age’ when grammar schools reigned supreme, giving poor children ladders out of poverty and into the best universities, and all our people were educated to a higher standard than they are today.

In 1959, at the height ofthe ‘golden age’:

  • 9% of 16-year-olds got five O-levels.
  • More than a third of grammar school pupils only got three O-levels.
  • Fewer than 10% of the population went to university and most came from professional or managerial homes.
  • Most children were failed by the 11-plus test and sent to secondary modern schools which often didn’t have sixth forms.

Fast forward to today:

  • In 2010, 6

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