School leaders would consider setting up new grammar schools

Two-thirds of Tory voters are in favour of bringing in new grammar schools - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News
Two-thirds of Tory voters are in favour of bringing in new grammar schools - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News

School leaders have said they would consider setting up grammar schools in new areas if Liz Truss ends a 24-year ban.

The Prime Minister has asked Kit Malthouse, the new Education Secretary, to find out where there is the most demand for new selective schools.

Gareth Stevens, the chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, which oversees 18 academies in East Anglia, told The Telegraph that the trust would consider setting up a new grammar if it would benefit disadvantaged children in poor areas.

He said that a lifting of the New Labour ban “could begin to play an important role in helping ensure that high ability children from disadvantaged backgrounds flourish”.

New grammars should be located in deprived urban areas and should stipulate that at least half of pupils must be eligible for “pupil premium” state funding, which is paid to schools with children on free school meals, he added.

Nick Hurn, the chief executive of the Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust, which oversees more than 30 primary and secondary schools in the northeast of England, said he would consider creating a new grammar if it was built in a deprived area and the admissions criteria gave preference to the most disadvantaged children.

He said: “I, like any educationalist, would wholeheartedly welcome any new initiative that will raise standards for all but particularly any scheme that will target the white disadvantaged children who are by far the largest underachieving group across our region.”

The creation of a new selective school would be contingent on approval from the Catholic Education Service, which oversees national education policy in Catholic schools, he added.

The Department for Education is understood to be preparing to research whether there is enough support for more selective schools around the country before pushing ahead with the proposal.

Ms Truss, who sent her daughters to a grammar school, has appointed two pro-grammar Conservative MPs, Jonathan Gullis and Kelly Tolhurst, as ministers in the Department for Education.

Backing among Tory voters

There are currently 163 grammar schools in England. Two-thirds of Conservative voters are supporters of grammar schools and almost half agree that more should be built, a poll by JL Partners for the Onward think tank found earlier this year.

Legislation would be needed to reverse New Labour’s ban on new selective schools in 1998, which could include an amendment to the Government’s Schools Bill, or a new grammars bill.

Sir Graham Brady, the grammar-supporting chairman of the 1922 Committee, has said that he plans to table an amendment to the Schools Bill.

The policy is set to be one of the biggest topics of debate in the education sector at party conferences.

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, said: “Grammars make up a tiny minority of schools. They don’t improve educational outcomes and parents don’t want them. They want the Education Secretary to raise standards across our comprehensive schools.”

School leaders opposed to the creation of new grammars include Paul Tarn, Delta Academies Trust, which has 51 academies in the north of England.

He said: “The future prosperity of our nation does not lie in selecting children on their ability at age 11.

“Study after study shows that grammar schools do nothing to promote social mobility, or any form of ‘levelling up’, just the opposite in fact. Middle-class parents will hire tutors in preparation for the 11+ and this becomes a form of social apartheid.”

Seamus Murphy, the chief executive at Turner Schools, which oversees five schools in Kent, said: “Converting existing schools into selective schools, and opening new selective schools, would only exacerbate the social divisions which already exist across our country.”