Education secretary Justine Greening has been accused of a “nasty” plan to lift the ban on new grammar schools, as she today confirmed to MPs the government is “open minded” to on academic selection.
Last night Theresa May told Tory MPs she wanted to build new schools that select based on ability.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said the “cat is finally out of the bag” after ministers had dodged questions on the policy.
“The prime minister promised to lead a One Nation government. She said her policy would be led by the evidence and she claimed that she would govern fort he disadvantaged not the privileged few. Yet this policy fails on every single count. It maybe a new prime minister ... but it’s the same old nasty Tories.”
May famously once warned her Conservative colleagues they were seen as the “nasty party:.
Grammar schools select which children can attend by asking them to pass an exam aged eleven. Critics of the system warn it means children who do not pass the test are branded as failures at too young an age. New grammars were banned by the Labour government in the late 1990s.
Rayner said today new grammar schools would “entrench inequality and disadvantage”.
She added: “It will be the lucky few who can afford the tuition who can get ahead and the disadvantaged who will be left behind. A policy for the few at the expense of the many.”
Greening told MPs today “we do believe selection can play a role” in education. “The point is people should have the choice. It shouldn’t be for government to deprive them of the choice of how they want to educate their children,” she said.
May’s secret plans were revealed on Tuesday when a photographer snapped a memo carried by the Department for Education’s most senior civil servant as he walked out of No.10 Downing Street.
Several Labour MPs suspect comprehensive educated Greening is not as enthusiastic about the plan as the prime minister. The leaked memo revealed the education secretary’s “clear position” was new grammars could only be approved if it children who did not get into the schools were not disadvantaged.
Former shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said “Justine Greening should have the guts to stand up to Theresa May against this awful plan. Return of grammars divisive and unfair”.
And her former shadow cabinet colleague Chris Bryant added: “This waffly statement from the Education Secretary suggests she doesn’t really support Mrs May’s divisive plans for grammars.”
It is not just Labour MPs who are opposed to new grammar schools. Conservative Sir Des Swayne said grammar schools were not suited to every town. He said parents would not react happily to having to have their children “bussed elsewhere” if they did not pass the entrance exam.
And Neil Carmichael, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Education Committee, said the government should not talk “just about the few”.
He said: “It is absloutely necessary for any discussion about grammar schools not to distract us from that fundmental task we have of improving social mobility.”
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