May reboots grammars plan with £50m for extra places

Bishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon

A seemingly impregnable Ms May announced plans for a new generation of grammar schools, representing a massive shake-up of England's education system.

Ministers were, therefore, at pains to stress that these new or expanded selective schools would be different, outlining a series conditions that could be imposed on them, from taking a proportion of pupils from lower-income families to setting up feeder schools in a disadvantaged area.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said the new expansion would simply allow grammar schools to do what other schools have already been allowed to do - create new places where there is demand.

The ones that want to take on extra pupils will also have to show their plans to admit more children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In 2016, no grammar school weighted test scores in favour of poorer children, although three schools did still consider for admittance children receiving free school meals who scored up to 10 points below the pass mark.

Sian Griffiths, education editor at The Times, told Julia Hartley-Brewer this morning that grammar schools are unlikely to improve social mobility unless they change their entrance criteria.

It is a unusual twist of fate that today's grammar school announcement better reflects the priorities of the education secretary who was sacked rather than those of the prime minister who sacked her.

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"You have to constantly look at population growth and movements to make sure that you've got the places where they are needed".

The policy is seen by some as a middle ground between the Conservative manifesto at the last election, and the outcry that came from opposers of selective education.

Dr Nadia Siddiqui, Assistant Professor at Durham University and co-author of the report published in the British Journal of Sociology of Education, said grammar schools prevent surrounding schools from attracting the highest attaining pupils.

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: "The government can not point to a single piece of evidence that shows [a] strong educational benefit of this misguided policy".

But critics are disappointed money is being used in this way while there are claims the state system is at "breaking point".

"While it may benefit a small minority, it will not close the gap between rich and poor pupils and if anything will increase the divide". The state-funded school system is rapidly heading towards insolvency.

Parents who can afford to send their children to independent private schools - including left-wing, anti-grammar politician such as Labour's Diane Abbott - have increasingly chosen to do so.

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