‘Bring back grammar schools,’ Siemens boss tells Nicky Morgan

England should open more grammar schools, the UK chief executive of Siemens has told Nicky Morgan.

Juergen Maier, who joined the education secretary for a panel discussion at the Confederation of British Industry’s annual conference, called for a return to a selective system with parity of esteem for vocational study.

But Ms Morgan insisted England would not return to such a system, and said she did not want to “fight the battles of the past”.

Her comments come despite a recent decision to allow the Weald of Kent grammar school to “expand” onto a separate site almost nine miles away from its existing HQ.

Speaking about what he described as stronger “dual systems” in Europe, with a more equal focus on academic and vocational study, Mr Maier said he would welcome a return to a grammar system, as long as vocational paths were equally valued.

He said he would favour a system similar to the one in Germany, which divides pupils between academic and vocational routes, but “only if the vocational route is rated as highly in esteem”.

When asked by chair Joel Hills from ITV if she was a “fan” of grammar schools, Ms Morgan said: “no”.

She added: “We’ve been very clear that we’re not going to return to a selective system, because frankly I’m not going to fight the battles of the past.

“I want all schools to be stretching the most-able.”

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  1. Janet Downs

    The German system divided pupils into three tiers with the bottom tier becoming regarded as sink schools. Andreas Schleicher, statistics guru at the OECD which administers the three-yearly PISA tests, said Germany was rethinking its selective system after its PISA ‘shock’ early in the century. At the same time, OECD found countries that perform best in PISA tend NOT to segregate children according to ability until at least upper secondary (15/16). Research from Europe last year found that while selection might benefit those selected it increased the effect of socio-economic background.
    Being a ‘top industrialist’ doesn’t mean Maier understands this.

  2. Janet Downs

    Maier may think selection would work if vocational schools had ‘parity of esteem’ but that isn’t going to happen. The old technical schools were never on a par with grammars and secondary moderns certainly were not.
    Wherever in England selection still exists, there is a perception that grammars are ‘better’ (and so are those who teach or learn in them) and non-grammars are ‘second tier’ (along with those who teach or learn in them).

  3. Donald Webber

    Of course grammar schools were a great success in helping able children from poor backgrounds to compete with those from private schools (such as Nicky Morgan) and get to top academic universities and advance to middle class status. It is thus natural that people like me, who enjoyed that benefit but still could not afford to send our children to private secondary schools, should support the continued existence of such schools. We are extremely fortunate to live in Kent, where grammar schools still flourish, and my own children in their turn try equally hard to encourage their offspring to seek academic success through the grammar school system. I am astonished that there are not other areas of the country where those from lower down the income scale do not regret the disappearance of these fabulous avenues for advancement. It seems to me that grammar schools were lost because teachers, rather than students, did not like an academic stream to be highly esteemed.