We should end the dominance of the independently educated by letting the old direct grant schools back into the state sector, says Lord Lucas.
The Sutton Trust say that 80 of the best schools in the UK want to make a return to the state sector: schools like Manchester Grammar, King Edward's Birmingham, Royal Grammar School (RGS) in Newcastle and The Grammar Schools at Leeds. If negotiations went well, St Paul's, Westminster and others of the great charitable schools might convert too, and make a decisive change to our educational landscape.
Ending the dominance of independent schools by other means is a slow and uncertain business. At the current rate, it will take a generation or two to get there. Welcoming back a phalanx of great schools (it will be much easier for them to make the move together, rather than facing the critics one by one) will get us there quickly and certainly.
Admission rules would need to be crafted to make sure that access was fair. Not impossible. The old direct grant schools used quotas.
The net result of allowing the direct grant schools to return would be that many gifted children from disadvantaged backgrounds would get a better education than they do now. If the great charitable day schools joined in, the remaining independent sector would be confined to the provision of specialist education, where I do not doubt that it would flourish, and state education would gain its proper place in the eyes of academics and recruiters.
These two great prizes justify infringing on the Labour/Liberal Democrat principle of no more selection for state education, especially since the trespass is not great. The volume of selection in England would not increase: it would just be better directed.