From Leigh to You: County was wise to keep its grammar schools

Sir Edward Leigh
Sir Edward Leigh

The rivalry between the House of Lords and the House of Commons is an ancient one that stretches back to time immemorial.

The Lords is of course the upper house of our Parliament and each year its gilded walls are visited by our gracious sovereign.

The Commons, meanwhile, is the real source of power, imbued with legitimacy by our democratic mandate from the people.

The gentle rivalry between these two chambers of our parliament takes a number of forms including the annual Parliamentary Boat Race.

I’ve captained the Commons VIII in the past and this year’s race featured a historic curiosity.

Instead of our usual modern racing shells we and our rivals in the Lords rowed in two wooden boats, replicas of the two boats used in the first ever Oxford versus Cambridge Boat Race of 1829.

It was definitely an effort manoeuvring the heavy wooden oars and I was glad to be joined by my fellow Lincolnshire MP, Karl McCartney.

I’m happy to report that Karl and I managed to put an end to a streak of Lords victories by winning the 2016 Parliamentary Boat Race for the House of Commons.

This friendly rivalry serves a productive purpose: through sponsors and an auction we managed to raise more than £10,000 to be granted to three different charities.

More seriously, we are beginning to see Theresa May’s premiership take shape and so far I like what I see.

The recently announced raft of educational reforms are most welcome.

Grammar schools, by their very nature, are not for everyone, but they allow a leg up for the disadvantaged to get a high-quality education and all the benefits thereof.

It’s telling that so many on the Labour front bench, including the Leader of the Opposition, have been the beneficiaries of a grammar school education that they seek to deny to others.

We were very wise here in Lincolnshire not to get rid of our grammar schools and we should all take pride in the achievements of Caistor Grammar School and Queen Elizabeth’s High School.

But the Government is concentrating on improving the quality of education across the board, including the vitally important skills acquisition that goes on through the technical colleges and through the record number of apprenticeship schemes.

I have been very concerned over the situation in Riseholme where the University of Lincoln is seeking to redevelop the site of Riseholme College, one of the pearls of this county and an institution to be proud of.

I have been in touch with the college, the university and local councillors regarding the latest proposal which scales down the number of homes to be built.

The real problem, however, is the university is effectively forcing Riseholme to move away from the fantastic land-based education they have been offering on this site for well over half a century

I am keeping a keen eye on this situation and I hope that the university will see sense and revise its plans.