Theresa May tells Tory MPs there is a place for ‘inclusive’ new grammar schools

Posted On: 
8th September 2016

Theresa May has defended the principle of “inclusive” selective education, as she confirmed plans for a new wave of grammar schools.

Theresa May addressed the 1922 Committee yesterday evening
PA Images

The Prime Minister addressed the 1922 Committee yesterday evening and defended the prospect of lifting the 18-year ban on new selective state schools in England.

The chair of the Social Mobility Commission is the latest independent figure to attack the idea, warning today that it would be a “social mobility disaster”.

But Mrs May argued that the practice of parents buying houses in areas with good schools meant the system was already not random.

According to the Daily Telegraph, she said: “We have already got selection haven’t we – it’s called 'selection by house price’.”

Selection could be justified as long as it was “inclusive not exclusive”, Conservative MPs heard.

She added, however, that she was not going to “turn the clock back” to general exams for children at 11, instead suggesting that some of the 500 new free schools announced by David Cameron before he left office could be grammars.

“She said she didn’t want a situation where parents wanted a selective school only to be told they couldn’t have one,” a source at the meeting told the Telegraph.

Since the plans were revealed by a leaked government paper, they have come under fire from a range of figures – including the chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw, former Cabinet minister Lord Willetts, and serving Conservative MPs – for failing to boost the prospect of disadvantaged children.

Alan Milburn, who chairs the Government’s social mobility watchdog, has weighed in today, telling the Guardian grammar schools risk creating an “us and them divide”.

He said: “This is not selection educationally, it is selection socially. If that is what is being talked about, it will not provide a social mobility dividend, it will be a social mobility disaster.”

Responding to Mrs May’s comments, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said the situation was “shambolic”.

“The Prime Minister talks about social inclusion while at the same time advocating social segregation through grammar school selection,” the Labour MP.

Liberal Democrat education spokesman John Pugh said the Conservative leader was “losing the plot”.

He said: “There is no such thing as inclusive grammar schools. By their very nature they exclude children who don’t pass a test aged 11.”