The Liberal Democrat leadership election is now underway with a ballot running until 26th August. We asked the leadership candidates, Sir Ed Davey and Layla Moran, for their views on the 11-plus and grammar schools. We are very grateful that Layla Moran responded to our request. It’s good to see her position on this important topic, and as she has stated in the past, it appears she’d like the party to take a stronger stance on 11-plus testing.
Here is Layla’s reply:
The Liberal Democrats and I have long opposed an expansion of grammar schools. As I’m sure you are aware, there is plenty of evidence that grammar schools actively harm social mobility rather than improve it.
We plan to develop proposals to abolish the 11-plus and replace it with a set of admissions criteria, controlled by the local authority, which should take into account children eligible for free school meals, those with special educational needs or a disability, and those who live close to the school. We hope that these proposals will be submitted to a future Liberal Democrat party conference in order to become policy.
I do recognise that most existing grammar schools provide an excellent education for their pupils and are valued in their communities. That’s why, rather than scrapping them, we want to ensure that all children who live in an area which has a grammar school have a fair chance to attend them, by our proposed reforms to the admissions system. The school system has been greatly disrupted over the last decade or so and we would not want to add to this disruption by scrapping grammars.
More broadly, we want an education system that doesn’t focus only on a narrow range of academic subjects and does not measure pupils’ abilities in a handful of high-pressure exams, but instead gives young people the skills they need to get on in life and promotes social mobility rather than selection. We oppose SATs on these grounds and want to see them discontinued.
We’d also like to see Ofsted overhauled and replaced – something we drew attention to and campaigned on during the last general election in our manifesto and beforehand. Unlike current practice, inspections should take place every three years and should consider a broader range of factors including the social and emotional development of children, and the wellbeing of staff and pupils. We’d also extend inspections to independent schools too.
I hope this response is helpful, and please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any further questions.
Layla Moran MP, Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon
We have had no response to date from Sir Ed Davey, but will update this page if and when we receive one. In a recent interview with the Centre think tank, Ed Davey suggested he supported local referendum to open up grammar schools to local children. The interview is here.