Angela Rayner: New grammar schools plan an 'ideological attack on working class'

Posted On: 
7th March 2017

Labour today accused Theresa May of launching an “ideological attack on the working class” after the Prime Minister announced a new wave of grammar schools.

New free schools can be set up as grammars
Credit: 
PA Images

Furious Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said she was “disgusted” by the plan which was revealed in a coded Budget announcement about free schools funding.

Tomorrow Chancellor Philip Hammond will announce a £320m bost for 140 new free schools, which will be free to select their pupils on academic ability.

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Part of the new cash will go towards extending free travel for the poorest children to attend grammar schools.

But Ms Rayner accused the Government of “sucking money” out of cash-strapped existing schools to fund a “vanity project” that will not help children.

“This is an ideological attack on the working class people of this country being able to get a decent education,” she told Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Money on a vanity project with no evidence to suggest it will help children move from socially deprived backgrounds is disgusting - it’s a dogma."

Ms Rayner said the new cash was a “drop in the ocean” compared with the £3bn cuts existing schools face - and said head teachers were struggling to buy books and keep their schools open.

“[Opening new grammars is] not about giving places to local children that need those schools, it’s about sucking money out of the current state public sector,” she fumed.

'GREATER CHOICE'

The Government had previously committed to building 500 free schools - which can be opened by charitable groups and lie outside local authority control - by the end of the current parliament.

The new funds will go towards 30 of those schools while also helping new institutions lay the groundwork for future completion, mostly during the next parliament.

Prime Minister Theresa May declared: “For too many children, a good school place remains out of reach with their options determined by where they live or how much money their parents have.

“Over the last six years we have overseen a revolution in our schools system and we have raised standards and opportunity, but there is much more to do.

“As part of our commitment to creating a school system that works for everyone, today we are confirming new investment to give parents a greater choice of a good school place for their child, and we will set out the next stage of our ambitions in the coming months.”

FREE SCHOOL SPENDING DOUBLED

The Government has so far opened 431 free schools, including 307 in the last parliament and 124 in the current parliament. According to the Treasury another 243 are in the process of being opened.

A National Audit Office report last month said spending on free schools has doubled since 2010, while £6.7bn is needed to bring existing school buildings in England and Wales to a satisfactory level.

That year ministers vowed to open 315 free schools at a cost of £900m by 2015, but since then 305 free schools have opened at a cost of £1.8bn.

The Government says by 2021, £9.7bn will have been spent on 833 free schools - which are set up by individuals or communities through public funding.