Speaking at an event to mark the launch of the DfE’s new Schools White Paper, Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi praised the “fantastic ethos” of grammar schools stating he wanted to spread their “DNA” throughout the education system.

Comprehensive Future’s Chair, Dr Nuala Burgess, said, “I think most were baffled by the Education Secretary’s reference to grammar school ‘DNA’. It’s a fact that grammar schools genetically engineer their success rates by rejecting 80% of children and cherry-picking pupils more likely to succeed in exams. All the stats show us that it is poorer children and those with additional learning needs – the very children who should be at the heart of this Government’s levelling up agenda – who are the least likely to be accepted into a grammar school. There is nothing admirable about a school ethos characterised by rejection. If this is what Zawawi means by grammar school ‘DNA’ he appears to be promoting schools with a serious flaw in their genetic make up.”

Comprehensive Future has recently produced an interactive map of every grammar school in England. The map shows that on average just 5% of grammar school pupils are on free school meals while the average in non-selective schools is over four times that figure at 23%. The map also reveals that several grammar schools educate a quarter or more pupils who come from private schools. In one Kent grammar school, some 60% of its pupils were previously educated in a fee-paying ‘prep’ school before taking up a state-funded grammar school place.

Dr Nuala Burgess said, “This map confirms a growing body of evidence which shows that grammar school places are monopolised by the privileged.”

The Schools White Paper makes one reference to grammar schools: “Recognising their important role within the communities they serve, we will ensure that selective schools are secure in multi academy trusts.”  Nadhim Zahawi appears to support selective schools continued existence, with some Tory MPs pressing for new selective schools to be created. Yet too often the ‘communities’ grammar schools ‘serve’ find their sons and daughters unwelcome in these schools, with 10-year-olds divided based on a score in a descredited test.