New Ofsted chief laments grammar schools ‘distraction’

Posted On: 
10th January 2017

The new head of Ofsted has branded plans to create new grammar schools a “distraction” from the real problems facing the education system in England.

Prime Minister has vowed to reintroduce grammar schools to boost “social mobility”.
Credit: 
PA Images

Amanda Spielman, who took over as the new chief inspector of schools this year, said it was not easy to see how the Prime Minister’s drive for more grammars would help improve the education system.

She told the Guardian: “For me it’s a distraction from our work. I don’t see it as something that has much to do with making the most of every school, of Ofsted making the most of its work and contributing to system improvement.”

New grammars would benefit just six areas in England – report

'Jams' benefit least from grammar schools, report finds

Grammar schools urged to send talent scouts to poor areas

Ms Spielman also warned that Britain’s exit from the European Union risked leaving education further down ministers’ agenda.

“Brexit is obviously a huge, huge... national preoccupation,” she said.

“In terms of government thinking and government action, it’s something that’s going to be absorbing so much time and attention that it may be harder to get the focus sometimes that we need.”

When said suggesting education would be “neglected” by the Government due to Brexit, she replied: “Neglected may be putting it too strongly, but it may slide a bit further down the priority list.”

Ms Spielman’s predecessor as Ofsted chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw, was a vocal opponent of plans to create new and expand existing grammar schools, which Mrs May has made a focal point of her plans to improve social mobility.

He branded the proposals “socially divisive” and warned they would “reduce standards for the great majority of children”.

The Blair government in 1998 ended grammar schools, and while some remain, the Prime Minister has vowed to reintroduce the system more widely to boost “social mobility”.