Justine Greening has confirmed the plan to open a new generation of grammar schools is dead.
The Education Secretary slipped out the announcement in a written answer today, dodging the opportunity to confirm the policy change in the Commons chamber.
Unleashing a new wave of grammar schools was one of Theresa May’s flagship policies in the General Election campaign, but it was not included in last week’s Queen’s Speech - used by the Government to set out the legislation it plans to pass over the next two years.
Greening’s statement today indicates the Government is not planning to use other means to push the policy forward.
Responding to a question for Labour’s Catherine West on “whether it remains the Government’s policy to allow the opening of new grammar schools”, Greening replied: “There was no education bill in the Queen’s Speech, and therefore the ban on opening new grammar schools will remain in place.”
Plans to open a new generation of grammar schools were announced by May in September 2016, who claimed introducing academic selection for 11-year-olds would make “this country a true meritocracy.”
The claim came despite evidence that grammars did little for social mobility, and research from the the Royal Society in December found no proof that disadvantaged children would be helped by more selective school places.
Grammar schools may also hamper their results in science and maths, the research found.
The pledge made it into the party’s election manifesto, with May pledging to “end the ban on selective schools”.
The plans were opposed by former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, as well as Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner.
After being told about Greening’s statement, Rayner urged the Education Secretary to make a full announcement confirming the plans would not be returning in the future.
She said: “A full u-turn on this discredited and divisive policy would be welcome by everyone who is serious about improving education, however humiliating it might be for the Prime Minister.
“But even now they won’t give a categorical assurance that they have abandoned this policy for good.
“The government should give schools the certainty they need by immediately making a proper announcement clarifying they will not be bringing back these proposals for the rest of this Parliament, or seeking to implement them by the back door.”
Lib Dem Education spokesperson Layla Moran also welcomed the news and said: “This news, slipped out by the Government, is welcome. Grammar schools are a betrayal of the principle of comprehensive education.
“The Tory ideological obsession with Grammars needs to end. They instead need to solve the real problems facing our education system by committing the extra funding our schools need, not slashing their budgets.
“Our children should all be afforded the same opportunity for a quality education. People want a country that is fairer, not the rose tinted spectacles of the 1950s.”
Modern day grammar schools came into being in 1944, and after the heyday of the 1950s and 60s the number in operation in the UK dropped dramatically.
While Education Secretary in the early 1970s, Margaret Thatcher oversaw the closing of hundreds of schools, and by the time she became Prime Minister in 1979 there were only around 200 such institutions.
Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair introduced a ban on opening new grammars in 1998, although the 167 schools which did select through the 11-plus exam were allowed to remain open.
There are currently 163 grammars in the UK.