Liz Truss is our new prime minister, and in a number of hustings made clear her wish to reverse the legal ban on new grammar schools and expand selective education. She stated she would like to see a grammar school “in every area.” She explained, “My two daughters now attend a grammar school, and I want people around the country to have the choice that we have to be able to send our daughters to a grammar school.” Her plan has already come under attack, with numerous critics speaking out against the idea, including Tory MP David Johnston, who wrote a piece in the Spectator , and even Michael Gove, writing in the Times.
The Telegraph commissioned a poll, presumably seeking to show support for grammar schools, but this was mocked on Twitter. The headline stated ‘nearly half of Conservative supporters want more selective schools’ rather than pointing out that a majority of Tory voters did NOT want more selective schools. Sam Freedman pointed out, “If that poll is similar to others on the issue the Tories who want grammars will massively skew over 65. Parents aren’t fans.”
The DfE have suggested that disruption to learning during the Covid-19 pandemic “has had a greater impact on disadvantaged pupils”. Key stage 2 SATs data shows the disadvantage gap index, used by government to track the gap between poorer and better-off pupils, has increased to 3.21 this year. As grammar school 11-plus tests invariably test children’s maths and english skills, this suggests that disadvantaged pupils will be even less likely to pass the 11-plus than in previous years. No one supporting the grammar school system seems to admit that expensive test tuition will give children an advantage for claiming a grammar place, making poorer children, who are already at a disadvantage, even less likely to win a grammar school place.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Labour’s shadow education secretary, Bridget Phllipson, said, there would be no plan to phase out grammar schools if Labour were in power, “I’m more interested in what goes on inside the classroom than the name above the door.”
It is disappointing to hear that Labour would allow selection to continue. It is clear that many Labour members understand that 11-plus school systems foster inequality, and would prefer to establish a fully comprehensive school system.
A part time work-from-home role for the Campaign for State Education
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