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by Luke James
TORY plans to turn the clock back on education by resurrecting grammar schools were confirmed yesterday — despite warnings selection is a “disaster” for poor pupils.
Education Secretary Justine Greening was hauled before the Commons by Labour to clear up speculation sparked this week after an eagle-eyed photographer snapped official documents detailing the secret plan.
She confessed that the government believed grammar schools “could play a role” and said she was “open minded” about giving head teachers powers to pick pupils.
Ms Greening insisted lifting the ban on new grammar schools would not mean a return to the “simplistic” division of children into “winners and losers” at the age of 11.
“It would be wrong to discount how we can improve prospects for those children, especially the most disadvantaged, purely because of political dogma,” she argued.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, who left school at 16 without a GCSE grade above C, said: “Wow! Despite that waffle, the cat is finally out of the bag.”
She blasted back: “This policy will not help social mobility but will entrench inequality and disadvantage.
“It will be the lucky few who can afford the tuition who will get ahead and the disadvantaged who will be left behind — a policy for the few at the expense of the many.”
Ms Rayner’s warnings were backed up by education experts and the government’s own social mobility adviser, Alan Milburn, who warned it would be “a social mobility disaster.”
Teach First director Sam Freedman added: “Education experts are united that the evidence shows grammar schools harm social mobility.”
However NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates highlighted that the Tories have already introduced selection through the back door.
She said: “The education policies of the previous coalition government, continued by this one, premised on extensive and excessive autonomy for schools and the obsessive pursuit of deregulation, have rapidly increased covert selection, often targeted at pupils from materially deprived backgrounds.”
Just 169 of England’s 3,000 secondary schools are grammars, with a further 69 in Northern Ireland. They have been abolished in Scotland and Wales.
PM Theresa May is expected to personally reveal the details of the new grammar school expansion policy in a speech that could come as soon as next week.
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