Britain’s remaining grammar schools will be allowed to expand and provide more children with a free elite education for the first time in years.
The Government will provide a £50 million Selective Schools Expansion Fund for the country’s 163 remaining grammars — provided they are graded ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by schools regulator Ofsted — in order the build new classrooms and, in theory, satellite campuses — although the creation of genuinely new grammars, banned by the previous Labour government, will remain illegal.
The Government has agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Grammar School Heads’ Association, which represents 150 grammar schools, that extra efforts will be made to ensure more poor children will be recruited.
“To be able to expand as a selective school you need to come forward with a proposal of how you are going to reach out further with individual primary schools, look again at your admissions to make sure you are as inclusive as possible, because we want more children from disadvantaged backgrounds to be able to access that education,” promised education secretary Damian Hinds.
With the government giving more money to grammar schools, let's recap what we know about public opinion on grammar schools. First, here's a map showing where people are most pro- and anti-grammar schools https://t.co/1suvwyTg3u pic.twitter.com/gwzq4YWQq3
— YouGov (@YouGov) May 11, 2018
Grammar schools were once a pillar of Britain’s old tripartite education system, providing bright pupils of all backgrounds with an elite education and a platform for dramatic social advancement — but were near-abolished in favour of egalitarian comprehensive schools blending children of all ability levels together in the 1960s and ’70s.
While the grammars elevated many children from working-class backgrounds to positions at the top of large public corporations and even the office of Prime Minister, the comprehensives championed by the liberal left and accepted by the Tories proved less successful.
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.
Other politicians who could not be seen to exempt their children from the comprehensive system for political reasons, such as former Labour prime minister Tony Blair and former Tory education secretary Michael Gove, have been able to send their children to highly atypical state schools in small and extremely expensive catchment areas, such as the London Oratory and the Grey Coat Hospital Girls School — compared by critics to the supposed state schools used by Communist Party elites in the Soviet Union.
@KuperSimon Says in FT that British policy has’always been not to educate the working class’. Not true . In 1953, 65% of state grammar school pupils were from working class homes. Gurney Dixon report: Table J. Labour, then Tories, destroyed these schools. Why didn’t you know?
— Peter Hitchens (@ClarkeMicah) November 18, 2017
While acknowledging that poor children who attend grammar schools do perform better than those who do not, critics suggest they favour wealthier children disproportionately.
However, the research supporting this is based on the small rump of schools which have survived since the old tripartite system was dismantled, which tend to be concentrated in wealthier areas of a handful of English counties.
Supporters of the schools, such as veteran journalist Peter Hitchens, point out that prior to their mass dissolution as many as 65 per cent of grammar schools pupils were being drawn from working-class households.