Any move to revive selective schools will be “fiercely contested” by Labour, Lucy Powell has said.
The new shadow education secretary has told The Guardian that the Conservatives will “drag England’s schools into the past” by reviving grammar schools, “demoralising teachers and cutting resources”.
Ms Powell said that the government’s approval of the expansion of Weald of Kent grammar school in Tonbridge to another site 9 miles away in Sevenoaks would set a “legal precedent”, which could “open the floodgates to a massive expansion of selective education”.
She added that such an expansion would be “bad for social mobility and aspiration, for children, parents and the wider schools system”.
She continued: “This shows the complete lack of new thinking on education policy from the Tories. We could have a situation where the legacy of David Cameron is the return of selective education in this country.”
Ms Powell told The Guardian her party would back any legal challenges if the Weald of Kent application is approved. Action has been threatened by opponents who says the expansion would amount to the creation of a new grammar school, which is banned under the 1998 School Standards and Framework Act.
She said not only was selection at 11 “wrong in principle”, but that those areas which still had grammar schools were now “dominated by private tuition”, and had become a “bastion for those who have the financial and social ability to get that tuition”.
She added: “The supposedly golden era of the grammar schools in the 1950s, where children were just taken off one day to sit an exam, has completely gone because of the pressure that families are now put under.”