EXCL Theresa May appoints education minister who said 'I don't believe in grammar schools'

Posted On: 
28th September 2017

The Government's new education minister once declared that he "does not believe in grammar schools". 

Theresa May watches a physics experiment during a visit to King's College London Mathematics School.
Credit: 
PA

Sir Theodore Agnew said failing the 11-plus exam made him feel like "a second class citizen".

His views are a surprise as Theresa May pledged to create a new generation of grammars in one of her first acts as Prime Minister.

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Sir Theodore has been given a peerage in order to take up an unpaid role as a parliamentary undersecretary at the Department of Education, replacing Lord Nash.

Although he is fully behind the academisation of state schools, Sir Theodore has made clear his opposition to grammars.

In an interview with the Eastern Daily Press in 2013, he said grammars discriminated against children who develop more slowly than their peers.

“Even though I had a good education, I still failed the 11-plus," Sir Theodore said. "I remember it clearly. I can still remember the moment I was told I had failed. I can remember where I was standing, and the time of day. I do remember very clearly feeling ‘Well, what does that mean for me? I’m a second class citizen from this day’.

“That’s why I don’t believe in grammar schools. I think that you develop mentally at different speeds. I don’t think I’m thick – I don’t think I’m a brain box, but I think my brain just developed a year or two later than was expected by the system."

The businessman and former Tory donor is a strong supporter of academies and free schools, and was seen as a close ally of Michael Gove when he was Education Secretary.

His knighthood in 2013 raised questions about awarding honours to party donors, as he had given £134,000 to the Conservative party between 2007 and 2009.

He served on the Department of Education's board and was touted as a candidate to chair Ofsted during Mr Gove's time at the department.

Sir Theodore also chairs the Inspiration Trust, which has set up several free schools in Norfolk.

The Tories went into the snap election with a pledge to scrap Tony Blair's ban on new grammar schools, but have junked the policy since losing their Commons majority.

However existing grammar schools will still be allowed to expand and open 'satellite' sites miles from their original premises.