ASCL 2017: Justine Greening heckled by heads over grammar plans

School leaders heckled the education secretary Justine Greening today over claims that grammar schools help close the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils.

Heads shouted “rubbish” and audibly groaned as Greening took questions about her plan to expand selection during an otherwise ordered and polite session at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) annual conference in Birmingham this morning.

The government is under pressure to justify its plans to open the first new grammar schools in England in decades, in the face of a large amount of evidence that shows that they have a negative effect on social mobility.

Paul Cornish, the principal of Newton Abbot College in Devon, was the first to quiz Greening, and asked about how she could talk of the need for the use of evidence in education policy when her plan “flies in the face of evidence” about social mobility for disadvantaged pupils.

But Greening remained defiant, claiming that poorer pupils do better in selective schools

“We have to recognise that actually for grammars, in terms of the disadvantaged children that they have, they really do help them close the attainment gap,” she claimed, prompting shouting from delegates.

Members of the union also reacted with anger to Greening’s claim that parents “also want choice for their children” and that grammar schools are “often very over-subscribed”.

The government wants to overturn the existing ban on new grammar schools, and will spend £50 million a year helping existing selective schools to expand.

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


  1. Peter Lee

    It is staggering that Greening, May etc are allowed by much of the media to trot out the line that Grammars increase parental choice. By definition they cannot and do not.

  2. Tory From The Block

    Justine Greening is a working class hero. Her life is the epitome of the meritocratic society this Government is trying to create… People like this should be listened to and celebrated, not jeered. Best Education Secretary since Maggie bar none. Next stop: Number 10. Love from a Pleb X

  3. Greening was included in back-room discussions between the DfE selective education team and grammar school heads to discuss steps in overturning the ban on grammars. These took place during and just after the consultation. The DfE has not yet replied to my FoI request about who is in the selective education team and how often it met the GSHA.