(This post was originally published as an article in 2015 on another website, now defunct. If I wrote it now I'd change some things but it still reflects my overall thinking, more or less.)
There are certain genres of article that crop up in the press with great regularity. Dreadful Leftie Hypocrite Sends Kids To Grammar/Private School! is one such. The most recent left-wing notable to be thus exposed was Seumas Milne, late of The Guardian and now in charge of PR for Jeremy Corbyn.
The reaction to such stories tends to be rather muted, not least, I suspect, because rather a lot of journalists (and indeed politicians) who are vocally pro-comprehensive in public are privately sending their children to independent schools or grammars, or to schools that are comprehensive only in name.
The general shape of the debate over selection has a wearying familiarity. Supporters praise the post-1944 system of state grammar schools as having enabled large numbers of clever but poor children to get a first-class academic education in the state sector, which they would not otherwise have been able to get. They suggest that post-war improvements in access to Oxbridge for state school pupils can be ascribed to the system. Although it’s hard to quantify such a claim, it must contain a certain amount of truth—in just 5 years between 1959 and 1964, the proportion of incoming Oxford and Cambridge undergraduates who had been educated at state schools rose by 11 percentage points, from 26% to 37%.