Socialist Worker

May’s grammar school plan reignites a classroom war

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2521

The Tories vision for the top tier of the education system

The Tories' vision for the top tier of the education system (Pic: Isaactret)


The Tory plan for new grammar schools in England is one of the first major announcements since Theresa May became prime minister.

May said grammars can make Britain a “great meritocracy”.

She claims the schools are progressive because, unlike public schools, parents don’t have to pay for their children to attend.

The idea is that anyone can go if they are clever enough.

But in reality class determines who goes to grammar school and who doesn’t.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the NUT union, said the move “represents a return to the class-ridden Britain of the 1950s”.

He added, “Introducing selection will not open up opportunities for all.

The plans face opposition not just from ordinary people and unions, but also within the Tory party. They can be beaten.

“We know these will be largely working class children since less than 3 percent of entrants to grammar schools are entitled to free school meals.”

Under the plans parents would be able to set up selective free schools.

All existing state schools would be able to convert to grammar school status if they meet certain conditions.

Current grammar schools would be able to expand.

May claims the plans give parents more say over schools and more choice.

Has Theresa May overextended herself with the new schools?

Has Theresa May overextended herself with the new schools? (Pic: Policy Exchange)


This same line has been wheeled out to justify every nasty education policy the Tories have dreamt up.

May also postured over being tougher on private schools. She says they have to do more to support state education in order to hold onto their tax breaks.

They could be expected to sponsor or set up new state schools.

But conveniently the detail is vague.

May claims her new grammars are nothing like the old grammars.

Condemn

This is because she knows that grammars condemn most children to second-rate schools.

“This is not a proposal to go back to a binary model of grammars and secondary moderns,” she claimed.

Instead the plans would see the education system shift “decisively to support ordinary working class families”.

So instead May’s grammars will have to make places available to children from “disadvantaged backgrounds”. How many is unclear.

They would have to “help improve standards in non-selective schools”.

How this would happen is also unclear.

As Courtney put it, “For every new grammar school created, three or four neighbouring schools are effectively turned into secondary modern schools.

“For every child selected, three or four are rejected. This will set back social mobility for future generations.”

The plans face opposition not just from ordinary people and unions, but also within the Tory party.

They can be beaten.


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