Prime Minister Theresa May has been accused of misleading Parliament and her government over her grammar schools policy, following accusations she ‘talked-up’ a report which she’d used to support the plans.
According to a Schools Week story, a report commissioned by the Labour-run Knowsley borough council in Merseyside has been used to support the PM’s plans. Speaking in a Prime Minister’s Question session, May claimed the report stated “reintroducing grammar schools is potentially a transformative idea for working-class areas”.
However, the report did not state this. May erroneously attributed a statement made by the report’s producers, the ResPublica think tank, to the report itself. Specifically, it was ResPublica’s director, Phillip Bond, who made the statement in a press release announcing the report’s publication.
The report made almost no references to grammar schools, aside from one of the report’s 33 recommendations, which stated that the government should ensure that any future grammar schools target disadvantaged areas where the existing schools are not rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted. However, this recommendation was not made by Knowsley council, but by the report’s producers.
May had invoked the report initially to rebut criticism by former shadow education secretary Lucy Powell that additional grammar schools would hinder social mobility.
Knowsley council claims the recommendation in question was later added to the report to “capitalise” on May’s grammar plans, insisting it was not in a version of the report it saw in June.
A council spokesperson said both its chief executive and council leader “fundamentally disagreed” with the grammar findings.
ResPublica said the June report was a draft. A spokesperson said the council had signed off and “welcomed” its version published in October, commenting:
“It is a pity that Knowsley, for entirely political reasons, chose to repudiate an independent report because they didn’t like one recommendation out of 33.”
Powell commented to Schools Week that it was “clear” the report had been “amended and over-spun” to “chase an easy headline” following the grammar proposals, saying:
“From the PM down, Conservative grammar school cheerleaders have tried to use this report as a way to talk up grammar schools when it is now clear that Knowsley don’t want a grammar school and the initial report from ResPublica didn’t even contain this recommendation.”