New Grammar Schools

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:43 am on 8th September 2016.

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Photo of Angela Rayner Angela Rayner Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities), Shadow Secretary of State for Education 10:43 am, 8th September 2016

Wow! Despite that waffle, the cat is finally out of the bag. The Government have revealed their plans for new grammar schools in England, but not in this House—we did not even hear the word “grammar” just then. Instead, they did it through leaks to the press and at a private meeting of Conservative Members. So much for the one nation Government we were promised. Will the Secretary of State promise today that future such announcements will be made here so that we can give this policy the scrutiny it so badly needs?

Perhaps the Secretary of State can tell us the evidence base for this policy today. Has she read the Institute for Fiscal Studies report “Entry into Grammar Schools in England”? If so, perhaps she remembers the conclusion:

“amongst high achievers, those who are eligible for” free school meals

“or who live in poorer neighbourhoods are significantly less likely to go to a grammar school.”

The OECD and the Sutton Trust, and even the Government’s own social mobility tsar and their chief inspector of schools, have all cited the evidence against this policy. In Kent, where we have grammar schools, the attainment gap is far wider than it is elsewhere. So can the Secretary of State tell the House what evidence she has to support her belief that grammar schools will help disadvantaged children and close the attainment gap?

At a time when our schools are facing a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, with thousands taught in super-size classes and schools facing real-term cuts to their budget for the first time in nearly two decades, pushing ahead with grammar schools shows a dangerous misunderstanding of the real issues facing our schools. What will the Secretary of State be doing to address the real problems facing our schools today?

The Prime Minister has said this policy is justified because we already have social selection. Quite how making things worse by bringing back grammar schools as a solution remains a mystery. Perhaps the Secretary of State can tell us why she is not ensuring that all children get a decent education?

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. I was told that the Tories know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. I do not even think they know that anymore.

Finally, the Prime Minister promised to lead a one nation Government. She said that her policy would be led by the evidence, and she claimed that she would govern for the disadvantaged, not the privileged few, yet this policy fails on every single count. It may be a new Prime Minister, but it is the same old nasty Tories.