The announcement made in today’s Budget that £320 million has been set aside to build new free schools, including new grammar schools, fails two crucial democratic tests according to Comprehensive Future, the only body seeking to phase out selective education across England.
Theresa May has said that the money earmarked for new free schools will include new grammar schools. But no vote has yet been taken in Parliament on whether to reverse the legislation that prevents new selective schools from being established. As the Prime Minister well knows, the government is expected to face stiff opposition from backbenchers and the Lords when proposing any bill or clause enabling the reintroduction of selective education.
Melissa Benn of Comprehensive Future said, “The Prime Minister has jumped the democratic gun in suggesting that new grammar schools will be established under her watch. It is completely undemocratic to spend our money on a policy that has no parliamentary approval, especially when the public are still awaiting the results of last year’s Green Paper consultation on this scheme.”
‘However then, as now, most of the education profession, and a slew of independent reports, have declared the policy to be a distraction from the real challenges facing our schools. Even the Education Select Committee said there was no evidence that new grammars would close the attainment gap. Numerous reports from academics, think tanks and others, based on official data, show that the majority of children lose out in a selective system.’
The budget announcement has also been criticised for wasting money at a time when school funding has been reduced. Spending per pupil is set to fall by 6.5 percent by 2019/20, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS.)
Melissa Benn added, ‘Parents and children, teachers and heads can see only too clearly that school funding cuts are damaging their children’s education. Schools are being forced to reduce teaching staff, children are facing larger class sizes, and schools are in need of repair. Supporting new grammar schools within our constricted national budget is completely the wrong priority.”