Newly-minted UK Education Secretary Justine Greening has suggested that a new generation of grammar schools could be set to open in England that require students to pass the 11+ test in order to gain admission.
Greening said she was “open minded” about the need for selective schools in the country and is currently looking into what type of role the new grammar schools would play. The opening of new grammar schools had previously been banned by Tony Blair’s government in 1998.
However, the appointment of Theresa May as the new prime minister could result in a reversal of the ban, as she is a known supporter of grammar schools. Previously, May had shown her support for parents looking for additional places in academically-selective schools and supported plans for the expansion of a grammar school in her constituency, writes Christopher Hope for The Telegraph.
The activist group known as Conservative Voice is leading the push. Created by David Davis and Liam Fox in 2012, the group is expected to formally restart its grammar school campaign later this week. The group will likely be joined by over 100 other MPs who have all pledged their support, many of whom are grammar school alumni themselves. In addition, close to one-third of the new Cabinet were educated at grammar schools, and Nick Timothy, the new chief of staff, has supported selective schools before.
“We will be relaunching the grammar schools campaign due to the consistent and considerable interest that we are receiving around the country,” said Dan Porter, founder of Conservative Voice.
“I am absolutely delighted with the tone, style and content of the new Prime Minister’s agenda. In my view, a fundamental part of social mobility will be the return of grammar schools throughout the country.”
They have said they will be writing to May and Greening, holding events in Parliament and throughout the country, and launching a social media drive in order to increase the pressure.
While the efforts of the group were previously put on hold due to continually being shot down by David Cameron, the group said that Greening has renewed their confidence that a change is possible.
“I recognise that this is an important debate, so of course I’ve got lots of things in my in-tray. I will work my way through them very, very carefully over the coming weeks,” said Greening.
Campaigners are expected to increase interest in change even further by portraying grammar schools as a driver of social mobility that will fit into the “One Nation” agenda introduced by May. They will suggest placing the first 20 grammar schools in socially deprived areas in order to change the suggestion that they are focusing on only enrolling those within the middle class, writes Ben Riley-Smith for The Telegraph.
Meanwhile, research from Policy Exchange suggests otherwise, finding that only three of the grammar schools in the country have 10% of their students eligible for free meals as of 2012. In total, 42 grammar schools had between and 3% and 10% of students eligible for free meals while 98 had between 1% and 3%. Twenty-one schools had fewer than 1% of students eligible for free meals.
In addition, an investigation performed by Newsnight policy editor Chris Cook found that children who come from low-income families perform worse on their GCSEs in areas that offer selection, writes Freddie Whittaker for SchoolsWeek.
Grammar schools are state schools that enroll students who perform well on an examination taken at age 11. Of the close to 3,000 state high schools in England, 163 are grammar schools. An additional 69 are located in Northern Ireland. However, the current law in England created by the Labour government prevents any more such schools from being opened in the country.