New grammar school plan generates backlash

UNISON condemns possible creation of new selective schools

Reports that Theresa May will lift the ban on creating new grammar schools has met with strong opposition from UNISON, other unions, MPs, community leaders, and educational professionals.

“This move back to selection will be damaging for pupils, schools and communities and flies in the face of Theresa May’s claim that she wants to govern in the interests of ‘one nation’,” warned UNISON national officer Ruth Levin.

“This debate is a distraction from dealing with the serious issues of shortages of school places as well as funding cuts being faced by many schools.”

And shadow education secretary  Angela Rayner wared: “Grammar schools entrench inequality and have been a disaster for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Conservative MP Neil Carmichael, who chairs the commons education select committee,also joined the growing ranks of opposition to the move to introduce new selective schools in England.

The government says that allowing new grammar schools to open is about “social mobility and making sure that people have the opportunity to capitalise on all of their talents”, but this has been challenged by a number of studies.

Evidence from the Institute of Education shows that the earnings gap between richest and poorest is reduced in areas with comprehensive schools .

And nearly 60% of current grammar schools have fewer than 3% of their intake on free school meals, which suggests they select fewer low income pupils – more than 13% of secondary school pupils are eligible for free school meals.

In other words, grammar schools may not be an effective route to improving social mobility.

In fact, Research shows that grammar schools can actually reduce educational attainment.

Children from lower income backgrounds in Kent – which has retained a fully selective education system – experience markedly worse outcomes than the national average. At the same time, pupils as a whole achieve no better than the national average.