With the arrival of a new grammar school in Kent, arguments about selective education that have echoed throughout my lifetime are very much with us again because we have long ignored an important truth.
Parents are never obliged to send children to academically selective schools and such schools know that they have been chosen because the parents of their pupils appreciate them and are willing to support them. As long as the vast majority of parents are, effectively, obliged to send their children to school, there will be a demand by concerned parents for grammar schools, and independent schools and religious schools and schools in expensive leafy suburbs, where their children will not be not incarcerated with children whose parents will not accept the disciplines associated with a good education, and much else.
Good education follows good parenting. Politicians who seek to inflict a good education on all children will have to accept this and decide whether they have the wit and the will to expect more of parents, not just with regard to preparing children for school but more widely.
Some politicians – Tony Blair and Diane Abbott come to mind – do recognise this truth, but only with regard to their own children who are not sent to the schools that they provide for other people’s children.