The National Union of Teachers has written to several schools and multi academy trusts running ?’grammar streams’ as it prepares for potential legal action over de facto new selective schools created using admissions loopholes.
Ministers are said to be considering ways to open new grammars without the need to overturn the ban on new grammars through a legal change. Any attempt to pass the policy via parliament is likely to face opposition? among the Conservative party’s own backbenchers.?
However, Schools Week revealed last October that unions had pledged to explore legal action if academy trusts attempted to create new selective schools without new legislation.
Now, Kevin Courtney, the NUT general secretary, said the union has written to “less than half a dozen” schools which are offering “grammar streams” for pupils who pass an ability test.
Schools such as Swindon Academy place pupils achieving highly on a test into a separate class, and provides additional opportunities such as Latin lessons.
Courtney said the union wanted to “pick a test case” and try to find grounds for legal action.
He said that unless the government passed new laws on new grammars “there shouldn’t be ways of sneaking around it, and that’s what we think the schools are doing.”
The union is now corresponding with the schools about their selective processes, although Courtney would not name the schools involved.
Clive Romain, the NUT’s senior solicitor, said the union would consider “simple court action” against schools which it believed to be “unlawfully” creating new grammars and so had written to the schools asking for information about how their grammar streams are run.
He said the union would consider other legal options, including a judicial review against any guidance issued by the government encouraging schools to exploit loopholes in admissions laws.
“When parents send their children to what they understand is a comprehensive school and they then learn that in fact there is a particular grammar stream, which is created from a certain group of children who then, throughout their whole school career, are in that privileged grammar stream, with all sorts of perks and benefits, they can be quite understandably concerned about that.”
The NUT will debate the possibility of legal action against grammar schools at its annual conference tomorrow, but speaking to journalists today, Courtney said his team had already requested the information from schools which would be used to decide the union’s next steps.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Streaming pupils by ability is, and has always been, allowed at all schools, and helps teachers give every child an appropriately stretching education.
“Multi-academy trusts have always been able to pool their resources to deliver these benefits on a larger scale and across different sites within the trust, and we want to see more do this.”