"I'm against selection full stop"
Well done to Alan Johnson for saying here
" I'm against selection, full stop. I think the Prime Minister is as well. I'm curious as to why anyone would even think I'd changed my views on selection. I lived on a council estate in Slough, which was then in Bucks, which kept its grammar schools. I saw my daughter Emma fail her eleven-plus, and so she got sent to a comprehensive. But it isn't a comprehensive if you're creaming off the best students. She was very bright but, well, probably life chances were lost then. Her brother, Jamie, passed. So am I bitter about selection? Yes. I've seen what it does to kids."
But why then go on to clarify it through his aides here that he "did not plan to scrap the 11-plus: government policy is to avoid creating new grammars but leave existing schools untouched"?
If segregating kids into different schools by ability (which 9 times out of 10 actually means segregating them by social class/parental income) means they lose life chances as Johnson says, then surely it is morally indefensible and should be ended.
That doesn't mean "abolishing" grammar schools - they can keep the name, ethos and everything else, it just means they wouldn't be able to select by ability.
I grew up in a part of Kent that still has the 11+ now. I "passed" (and thanks to Thatcher's Assisted Places scheme got a free place at a minor public school) but I remember children in my primary school class crying in the playground because they had "failed" and would not be going to the same school as their friends or felt they were labelled as "failures". It wasn't a half and half split - only 5 of a year group of 50 at my state primary school "passed". Even within the "passers" there was - and is in my home town - further segregation and hierarchy between the 2 "good" grammar schools - both single gender - and the 2 "less good" grammar schools which had originally been "Technical" schools. Then there were a few whose parents had gone to church enough times to get them into the local RC "Comprehensive" or CofE "secondary modern". Everyone else went to the village "secondary modern" which Tory Kent County Council then shut down a few years later. I remember quite a few kids in my class saying after the 11+ exam they had assumed it was another practice (we did practice tests every week for two terms until we were experts in anagrams and all the other nonsense in the test) so had not bothered to answer all the questions...
I find it unbelievable that after 9 years of a Labour government we still allow 11 year old kids in some parts of the country to be put under that kind of pressure and stress, then separate some of them from their friends, fast track a chosen few and brand the vast majority as "non-passers". Not just Victorian but Mediaeval.