May ‘to back new grammars’

Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street ahead of PMQs
Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street ahead of PMQs

Prime Minister Theresa May has come under fire over claims she is planning to give the green light to a new wave of selective grammar schools.

Opposition parties reacted with fury to reports that selective education may be back on the agenda, vowing to fight a system which Labour spokeswoman Angela Rayner said should be placed “in the dustbin of history”.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that the PM could announce she is lifting the ban on new grammar schools as early as the October Conservative conference.

Downing Street did not deny the report, but said only that any change in policy would be announced “in due course”.

A Number 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has been clear that we need to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

“Every child should be allowed to rise as far as their talents will take them and birth should never be a barrier.

“Policies on education will be set out in due course.”

Education Secretary Justine Greening last month confirmed that the issue was in her “in tray” for consideration, and said that she was “prepared to be open-minded” about school selection.

But she signalled that this might not mean a return to the old pattern of grammars and secondary moderns by stressing that education was no longer a “binary” world and that there was already a range of different types of school on offer.

Mrs May is thought to be a supporter of new selective schools, having backed a grammar school’s proposal to open a new “annexe” in her Maidenhead constituency.

And the PM’s new chief of staff Nick Timothy has also backed new selective schools in the past.

Mrs May’s predecessor David Cameron annoyed some Conservative backbenchers by resisting the creation of new grammar schools, focusing his education policy instead on academies and free schools which do not select on ability at the age of 11. Any return to the grammar system can be expected to be divisive.

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said: “The Labour Party opposes Theresa May’s plan to bring back secondary modern schools in England.”

See Morning View, page 36