Justine Greening risks squandering the “talents and potential” of children and condemning them to a sense of self “undermined by failure and exclusion” with the expansion of selection in England, Mary Bousted has warned.
The general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said although Greening, the education secretary, was “far more competent, far less ideological” than her predecessor Michael Gove, she is having a “huge policy error foisted upon her” which is “hugely damaging”.
Greening has led the charge on new grammar schools, but Schools Week understands the policy itself is being driven from Downing Street, where Theresa May’s chief of staff and selection evangelist Nick Timothy also heads the Department for Education’s selective education team.
The facts of the matter are if you are a child of poor parents, you are disproportionately unlikely to get into a grammar school
Bousted said her union had spent “a deal of time and energy” using evidence to argue that an increase of selection at 11 “will do nothing to help social mobility”, but said the argument sometimes struggles to get through to parents.
“The problem we have when we make this argument is this: when parents hear about grammar schools they believe that their children will pass the 11-plus and get the best education on offer.
“But the facts of the matter don’t support this belief. The facts of the matter are if you are a child of poor parents, you are disproportionately unlikely to get into a grammar school. Even if you are the academically able child of poor parents, you are disproportionately unlikely to get into a grammar school – even if you live near one.”
Bousted warned that nobody had yet managed to invent a fully tutor proof 11-plus test, and said the children of poorer parents who could not afford the additional support would lose out.
“Look at Kent, which introduced a new tutor-proof 11-plus test in 2014 – which resulted in a drop of only one per cent in privately educated pupils passing the 11-plus.
“Or look at Buckinghamshire where a new tutor-proof 11-plus was introduced in 2013 which saw the pass rate for pupils from state school drop from 23 to 20 per cent.”
Bousted said that if Greening was “really serious about social mobility”, she would not “squander the talents and potential of children, condemning them, aged 11, to a sense of self undermined by failure and exclusion”.
“You will not risk their future potential as engineers, designers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, by telling them that they are not academically able and that their future should be circumscribed by their failure to pass a test they were not prepared for and which says so little about their potential. Our children are too precious, too valuable, to be treated like this.”