An “ambitious package of education reforms” including new grammar schools and measures to force top universities to sponsor schools will help make the country “a true meritocracy”, the prime minister will claim this morning.
In a major speech, Theresa May will launch the new government’s green paper, including plans to scrap the “arbitrary rule” which prevents new grammar schools from opening.
The government’s reforms will offer new and existing grammar schools the choice between admitting more pupils from a deprived background, setting up free schools or sponsoring underperforming academies.
The announcement follows months of speculation about the future of selection in English education since May – and her vehemently pro-selection chief of staff Nick Timothy – entered Number 10 in July.
We are going to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few
“We are going to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few,” May will claim today. “A fundamental part of that is having schools that give every child the best start in life, regardless of their background.”
She will say that the country has for too long “tolerated a system that contains an arbitrary rule preventing selective schools from being established”, which she claims has sacrificed children’s potential “because of dogma and ideology”.
“The truth is that we already have selection in our school system – and its selection by house price, selection by wealth. That is simply unfair.
“That is why I am announcing an ambitious package of education reforms to ensure that every child has the chance to go to a good school. As well as allowing new selective schools we will bring forward a new requirement that means universities who want to charge higher fees will be required to establish a new school or sponsor an existing underperforming school.
“This is about being unapologetic for our belief in social mobility and making this country a true meritocracy – a country that works for everyone.”
May’s plans have already prompted a groundswell of opposition, especially in the face of evidence which shows that grammar schools are not good for social mobility, and can even harm the education of those who do not get in.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, has said a return to selection would be a “profoundly retrograde step”, and Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, last night accused May of “working for the few at the expense of the many”.
“However you package this up, the Tory Government are bringing back selection to the UK education system,” she said.
“By enshrining selection into our education system the prime minister is wilfully ignoring the overwhelming evidence that selection at 11 leads to a more unequal country.”