The current conversation about Grammar schools is long overdue. Our new Prime Minister and Education Secretary are right to engage in it.
I have never understood why the ban on new Grammar schools was ever put in place, nor the stigma surrounding them.
It was at a Grammar school that I learned I could achieve anything if I put the work in, that anything less than my best was just not good enough and that to not put effort in is simply not acceptable.
I attended a state Grammar School near my hometown of Dewsbury. Located smack bang in the middle of some of the most deprived areas in our country, my former school unashamedly takes those with potential, regardless of their background, and gives them a world class education.
My parents, like all parents, wanted to give my brother and I the best education they could. Private school was simply not an affordable option, but thanks to the local Grammar school they had a choice. Parents are, rightly, increasingly demanding a more diverse education system with more choice. If we want to truly support this in our education system, we need to explore all avenues and offer as many options as we can, this includes Grammar Schools.
Yes, Grammar schools are selective. Many things in life are selective. Where or not you get on the football team is selective; whether or not you get onto that particular college course is selective; whether or not you get that job is selective.
It was the selective nature that first taught me that if I wanted something, I was going to have to work above and beyond to get it. In this case, just ten years old I gave up my Saturdays to study countless practice test papers for the 11 plus. I never had a tutor, instead my parents faithfully sat down with me week in week out - all the time having to figure their way around the papers themselves so they could then help me. I was by no means the smartest kid in my school class, but through graft, grit and determination, I passed the 11 plus and secured a place at the school.
We are rightfully investing in vocational education. Having experienced the benefits of this first hand, through my apprenticeship, I could not be a bigger advocate of doing so. However, it is only fair that we also invest in other aspects of education too. I want all children to grow up knowing that they can go in many different educational directions, depending on what suits their talents the most, knowing that each path will lead to a brighter future, full of opportunity.
I entered Grammar School an unconfident lass with potential but no sense of which direction to go in or how to get there. I left a focus-driven, hard-working young woman with the world at my feet.
The Conservative Party is dedicated to building a society offering life chances to all. A society where, if you work hard enough for something, you will get it. A society full of choice and healthy competition that will drive up standards. If there is something out there - such as Grammar schools - that offers opportunity, education and life skills to our children, why would we not be shouting out about it?
The 18 year ban on new Grammar Schools has gone on for 18 years too long. It is time to lift it.
Beth Prescott works for a debt counselling charity, and in the General Election last year she stood as the Conservative candidate in Normanton, Pontefract, & Castleford against Yvette Cooper.