Politics

MP’s grammar schools push likely to be delayed if schools bill shelved

Tory grandee Sir Graham Brady says schools legislation needed for amendment in favour of new selective schools

Tory grandee Sir Graham Brady says schools legislation needed for amendment in favour of new selective schools

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Attempts to lift the ban on new grammar schools would “almost certainly” be delayed until after the next election if the government’s schools bill does not proceed in this Parliament, a senior MP has admitted.

Tory grandee Sir Graham Brady recently outlined plans to amend the bill to allow new selective schools.

But there is uncertainty about the future of the landmark legislation, which is now under review following the change of government.

Amending the schools bill is not the only way to lift the ban on new grammars. A backbencher such as Brady could bring in standalone legislation to do so.

But Brady told Schools Week there was “not much of a viable route that way. Realistically it needs a schools bill.”

The MP believes there is “significant support” in the parliamentary Tory party for new grammars. “Crucially it’s something I would anticipate the government supporting.”

Brady warned that population growth in existing selective areas had prompted “significant demand” for new grammars. He also claimed a shortage of places was making existing grammars less inclusive.

Grammar schools ‘forced to become more selective’

“One of the reasons grammar schools don’t have as many with free school meals has been the reduction in the number of grammar schools. That forces them, especially as populations grow, to become more selective.”

But any attempt to amend legislation would run into problems in the House of Lords, where the government does not command a majority. A “single-issue” standalone bill is also unlikely, with limited time available.

“I can’t help think that the government has shafted itself on this issue,” said education policy consultant John Fowler, who suspected the amendment would fail in the Lords.

Labour lords such as the former education secretary, Lord Blunkett, and ex-schools minister, Lord Adonis, have unsurprisingly already vowed to oppose any attempt to open new grammars. But the government may also face opposition from its own benches.

Lord Lucas, a Conservative peer, said he was “not aware of any evidence that grammar schools benefit society as a whole or its most disadvantaged members in particular, so I start out with the supposition that I will vote against such a move”.

He said a change to the law “seems to me to be a next-election thing”.

“Why would any school make such a change in the face of a Labour promise to reverse it? The Lords would give the policy a hard time – not welcome for a government that has a lot to do over the next six months.”

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