The Daily Mail’s Quentin Letts made his case for grammar schools on BBC Question Time by comparing them to X Factor.
On Thursday night’s show, the theatre critic and parliamentary sketch writer said competition between pupils would be a positive thing.
He said: “I don’t think we have had an elitist approach to education for a long time.
“And I can’t see what is wrong with selection, and OK that brings rejection, but we are a country of X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent and the idea of children advancing on merit.”
After Letts spoke, host David Dimbleby allowed the audience to respond.
A gentleman said: “The competition on the X Factor is for entertainment.
“Ninety per cent of that in the early stages is humiliation and I think selection of 11-year-olds to take the cream of the crop as the elites would have it, is a scandal and the debate should end right now.”
The issue of grammar schools has caused much disagreement, both among the public and government.
State grammars select pupils at the age of 11 but while they often produce excellent results, the question of what happens to those who fail to be selected has dogged British politics since comprehensives were introduced in the 1960s and 1970s.
England’s first ‘new’ grammar for 50 years in Sevenoaks, Kent, was only approved last year as an ‘annexe’ to an existing school thanks to what teaching unions and Labour view as a loophole in the law.