Academics, education unions and politicians of all shapes and sizes have attacked government plans for more secondary schools, warning that selection will not improve social mobility or solve the challenges schools will face in the coming decade.
It follows the confirmation from the new Education Secretary, Kit Malthouse, that the Prime Minister has instructed him to look into areas in England looking to open new grammar schools, as well as those looking to expand existing grammars.
In an interview with the Yorkshire Post during a lecture visit this week, Malthouse said: “The Prime Minister made it clear during the leadership competition that she wanted to see work in secondary schools, essentially because there is a desire from parents in some parts of the country to to have.
“We are about parental choice, everyone should be able to make a choice for their children. So we’re looking seriously at that policy and looking at areas that want to have it or even high schools that want to expand.”
However, Liz Truss, who has sent her daughters to grammar school, will face much opposition, including from modernists within her own party, who saw an earlier attempt in 2016 when Theresa May was prime minister to revive the gymnasium on a larger scale. to blow in.
There are only 163 secondary schools in England and the opening of new ones has been banned since 1998. Any lifting of that ban, which was introduced by the Labor government, would require primary legislation. Although the government has a large majority in the House of Commons, it will face strong opposition in the House of Lords.
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory Backbenchers and a longtime supporter of secondary schools, is reportedly planning to table an amendment to the government’s recent school law to try to overturn the ban. lift.
David Johnston, the Conservative MP for Wantage and former chairman of the Social Mobility Foundation, warned that bringing back gymnasia would cause major divisions for the country and within the Conservative party.
In the Spectator he wrote: ‘I know gymnasia are popular with the members and my opinion will not be. But bringing them back would be a serious misstep for education policy. They distract us from what we should be doing, they serve the rich, not the poor – and they don’t work.”
Steve Mastin, former head of history at a public high school and vice president of the Conservative Education Society, said he would speak out against gymnasia at the Conservative Party conference. “Country schools reduce parental choice. It is the school that chooses, not the parents. And 80% of the students in the country will be rejected from going to secondary school.”
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said gymnasiums were “a diversionary tactic” from a government that has run out of ideas. “Grammar is a small minority of schools. They don’t improve educational outcomes and parents don’t want them — they want the Education Secretary to raise standards in our school communities.”
Liberal Democrat education spokesman Munira Wilson said it was “a desperate attempt” by the Tories to mask their own failures. “Rather than supporting children who are working hard to make up for their lost learning, the conservatives would rather impose top-down rules on the kinds of schools that can be built in communities.”
Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, warned that introducing new secondary schools without strong measures to ensure access for children of all backgrounds would “create an exclusive framework of middle-class schools, certainly not engines of social mobility.” in any way not at all”.
Jon Andrews, head of analysis at the Education Policy Institute, said it was an “old-fashioned debate” that detracted from the real problems schools face. “Whether it’s reducing educational inequalities, tackling teacher shortages, or even helping schools cope with skyrocketing operational costs, the gymnasium isn’t the answer.”
dr. Nuala Burgess, the chairman of the campaign group Comprehensive Future, said: “It is deeply concerning that a new, untried government may choose to override all reason and weight of evidence that the very limited value of secondary schools for a small minority of children.
“Ask any parent what they want for their child’s education and they are certainly not ‘more gymnasia’. Parents want well-funded, well-equipped schools.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the expansion of gymnasia was “purely ideological.” He said the main problems facing the education sector remain funding and the teacher shortage. “Tackling these issues would make the biggest difference in improving outcomes for all students, and that is certainly what every government should give its priority.”
Sally Weale, Education Correspondent
As the government plans for more secondary schools in England, a new website has been launched to give a voice to parents, students and teachers experienced with the 11-plus test and its impact.
About 100,000 children are currently in the 11-plus age bracket each year to secure a place in one of the 163 still-existing high schools. Here are some comments from the 11+ Anonymous site, which founded the Comprehensive Future campaign group.
Speaking of the stress of the test, a father in Kent, where the grammar system still works, said: “A few nights before the test, I looked at the search history on my daughter’s tablet. The last search was ‘How do you handle when you panic about something’. A 10-year-old!”
On tuition, a mother of Sevenoaks said: “We have spent £2,000 on tuition in the last year. Everyone I know does this. I envy friends who live in areas where there is only good comprehensive facilities. No stress for the 10 year old, no sense of failure, just the quality of free education they are entitled to.”
A teacher of over 11 years in Trafford, Greater Manchester, where grammars are, said: “I have seen many very bright children failing due to exam nerves and less able children are lucky in the day and pass. For many children with broadly similar aptitude, the exam becomes little more than a lottery rather than an aptitude test.”
A mother in Trafford said she knew several children who have fallen ill under the weight of expectation. “Children who fail often suffer significant, sometimes lifelong, damage to their self-esteem. No child should go through this to get a good education and no child should be labeled a failure when they are 10 or 11 years old.”
Speaking of the 11-year-old’s long-term impact, a 63-year-old grandmother said: “The 11-plus test had such a negative impact on me and created self-esteem issues that continue to this day. I’m not stupid. But I’ve had problems with low self-esteem regarding my intellect and worth since I ‘failed’ that terrible test in 1969.”