Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell has demanded the publication of advice received by Nicky Morgan ahead of her decision to approve plans for a grammar school in Kent.
Following the announcement that an application by the Weald of Kent grammar school to expand onto a new site seven miles away from its current base, Ms Powell has called for official advice the education secretary received on the matter to be published.
In a letter to Ms Morgan, Ms Powell said the approval of what is being described by government as an “annex” of the existing school suggested it was now “intent on increasing selection in our schools system by the back door”.
She continued: “The application appears to be a new school in all but name, and I am calling on you to publish immediately the advice that you have received from civil servants on this proposal.”
Ms Powell has also demanded information on how much time the Department for Education spent on the decision and what steps are being taken to ensure that grammar schools are not “disproportionately ‘stuffed full’ of pupils from affluent backgrounds”, as Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw has claimed.
She added: “As you are aware, just three per cent of children admitted to grammar schools are eligible for free school meals, even though 18 per cent of children in the local communities surrounding grammar schools fall into this category.
In addition, research has shown that poor children do dramatically worse in selective areas.”
She said poor children were “less likely to score very highly at GCSE in areas with a grammar schools system than the rest” and cited Institute of Education research which found that there was a “considerably bigger gap in wages between the highest and lowest paid workers in areas with a grammar schools system than in other areas”.
She said: “In the Conservative Party’s general election manifesto, you pledged to give every child the best start in life.
“It is only by focusing on raising standards for all that as a country we will achieve the scale of improvement that is so desperately needed to transform the life chances of all our children and end the inequality that is holding Britain back. That you and your party have now set yourselves completely against this view is extremely disappointing.”