The defence secretary, Michael Fallon, has said he would like to see parents given a choice of schools, including grammar schools, in every part of the country, after the prime minister told backbench Tories she wanted to build inclusive grammar schools.
Fallon, in whose Sevenoaks constituency in Kent England’s first new grammar school for 50 years was approved last year, spoke on Thursday after Theresa May had defended a return to more selective schools at a meeting of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs late on Wednesday, to cheers from backbenchers.
We have already got selection, haven’t we – it’s called ‘selection by house price’, May said, according to those who attended, saying she wanted new selective schools to be inclusive grammars.
The school in Sevenoaks is technically an annexe to Weald of Kent girls’ grammar school in Sevenoaks, and was finally approved after a long legal battle over the existing ban on new grammar schools.
Fallon told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the government needs to widen choice, and said parents in his constituency now had the options of academies, free schools and grammar schools. That’s the kind of choice I want to see in every part of the country, he said. [Everywhere] should have a choice, a proper choice of good schools. Not a choice that’s passing the 11-plus and then failing it and having to go off to a sink school of the kind that has let our children down so badly.
Non-academic children should also have proper alternatives that are equally outstanding in the kind of education they deliver, Fallon said. We are fortunate in Kent we have a grammar school system … and parents have a choice.
A string of high-profile figures have warned about the implications of expanding selective schools since Wednesday. Speaking to the Guardian on Wednesday, Alan Milburn, the government’s social mobility tsar and former Labour cabinet minister, warned ending the ban on grammars risked creating an us and them divide.
Milburn said pupils at England’s remaining 163 selective state schools were four or five times more likely to have come from independent prep schools than poorer backgrounds.
If [more of] that is what is being talked about, it will not provide a social mobility dividend, it will be a social mobility disaster, he said.
On Thursday, the former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg also questioned the plans, saying May had no mandate for a return to selection.
He told Today: I know they talked about grammar schools in their manifesto. They didn’t talk about extending selection to free schools and so on, which seems to be now what they intend to do.
This is the danger of having a new government with new leadership and new priorities, not elected by the people, now foisting their own evidence-free prejudices upon us. There’s no evidence at all that that is the answer to many of the problems in our education system.
Labour’s Ed Balls, the former education secretary, said grammar schools had led to complacency in some areas of the country.
He told Sky News: We had to intervene and ask very tough questions of schools in Kent and Gloucestershire because the attitude is: ‘We’ve got some really good grammar schools’ but the majority of children are not going to grammar schools and in some of the secondary modern schools as they were called, the results just weren’t good enough, he said.
There wasn’t enough aspiration, there wasn’t enough good teaching.
Balls said the schools suffered from being thought of as second best with children told at 11 they had not made the cut for selective schools.
To tell a kid at 10 or 11, you’re second best, they then have to arrive at that school and the teachers have a huge task to persuade them, you can still do well, you’ve still got talent, you’ve still got ability. You shouldn’t do that to kids at 10 or 11.
News Source TheGuardianNews