Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw has made it clear that the future of the UK's education system lies with comprehensive schools.
Sir Michael said he would not wish to see the return of grammar schools, which select pupils on the basis of academic ability but are often criticised for their unfairness and potential to increase inequality.
The debate around grammar schools has been reignited recently, with the UK Independence Party calling for a grammar school in every town. It's leader, Nigel Farage, believes such institutions are one of the best ways of increasing social mobility.
Sir Michael said: "What does the country need more of? Schools that educate only the top 20 per cent of pupils, 90 per cent of whom get good GCSEs, or schools that educate 100 per cent of pupils, 80 per cent of whom are capable of getting good GCSEs? I think the answer is pretty obvious."
He added that he is saddened by the fact that comprehensives have become "tarnished" in some people's eyes, and that, despite the considerable progress made in such institutions in recent years, they are still associated with "mediocrity, laxity and failure".
The Ofsted chief, who was speaking at the Festival of Education at Wellington College, Berkshire, said comprehensives had acquired a reputation for a lax attitude to behaviour and an informal approach to learning that scorned academic rigour.
Although the ideology that affected some of the early comprehensives has been discredited, some of its effects remain. The tolerance of poor behaviour, the disdain for competitive sports and the lack of respect for leadership are some of these consequences.
He admitted not every school is perfect and conceded that one in five schools in England is still in need of improvement.
However, he criticised the record of grammar schools when it comes to admitting children from disadvantaged backgrounds and said having one in every town would also mean having three secondary moderns in every town.
The Ofsted head emphasised the importance of discipline in comprehensive schools and said parents should also understand their responsibility for their children's education, particularly regarding areas such as school uniform policy.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels