Departing Ofsted chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has criticised the Prime Minister’s grammar schools policy, calling it an ‘obsession’.
Schools Improvement reports, Wilshaw called grammar schools ‘socially divisive’ in an interview with The Observer.
Instead, the PM should focus on investing in an education system which equips young people with the skills they require, to do the jobs of migrant workers once they are no longer able to come to the UK following Brexit.
Giving his opinion on Brexit’s impact on education, Sir Michael said:
“If you are going to make a success of Brexit, this should be the number one priority of government, not grammar schools.
“Otherwise we won’t have the skills. And the prospect for growth in the economy and productivity in the economy will suffer.”
He also stressed that grammar schools would not solve the problem of teacher shortages, and expressed doubts that opening new grammar schools would actually raise standards for a majority of children.
Elsewhere in the education system, there is appetite for more grammar schools. The Weald of Kent grammar school in Tunbridge, recently began building its new annex on a site in Sevenoaks, Sky News reported.
Figures from the Sutton Trust, a social mobility and education charity, showed that selective schools had only 3 percent of pupils from lower incomes, compared with 18 percent in non-selctive schools in the same area. Their survey also revealed that, 17 percent of lower income children have had private tuition, compared to 26 percent of higher income children. Opponents of selective schools say these figures are an indication that grammar schools hamper fair access to opportunity.
Kent County Council Leader, Paul Carter, whose council is in favour of more grammar schools, said that the problems in education are about more than selection or not. Speaking in a Sky News report, he said that the current education system fails the 20 percent of children who do not get five good GCSEs, and that access to opportunity would only truly be widened if education catered to all strengths and abilities.