Politics

PM asks Malthouse to draw up plans for new grammar schools

New education secretary asked to 'look at areas that want to have' grammars, but lifting ban not straightforward

New education secretary asked to 'look at areas that want to have' grammars, but lifting ban not straightforward

The prime minister has tasked her education secretary with drawing up plans for new grammar schools to open in England, Kit Malthouse has revealed.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post during a college visit yesterday, Malthouse said Liz Truss had “made clear during the leadership election that she wanted to see work on grammar schools, fundamentally, because there is a desire from parents in some parts of the country to have them.

“We’re about parental choice. Everybody needs to be able to make a choice for their kids. And so looking at that policy seriously and looking at areas that want to have it, or indeed, grammar schools that want to expand is something that she’s definitely asked us to do.”

grammar schools
Grammar schools fan Truss

But Malthouse stopped short of confirming the ban would definitely be lifted. Any lifting of the ban – in place since 1998 – would require primary legislation, which woud be an uphill battle for ministers.

Even if the proposal was passed in the House of Commons, where the Conservatives has a large majority, it is likely to face strong opposition in the House of Lords.

The Sunday Telegraph reported at the weekend that Tory grandee Sir Graham Brady is planning to table an amendment to the government’s schools bill to try to lift the ban and allow new free schools to select on ability.

But it is not clear at this stage whether the schools bill will continue its passage through Parliament.

Like all legislation set in motion under Boris Johnson’s government, the reforms are currently on ice while Truss reviews her priorities.

DfE ‘beavering away’ on grammar schools policy

Truss pledged to replace failing academies with new selective schools during her leadership campaign.

Malthouse said the PM wanted to “address the strong desire in quite a lot of parents to reflect the benefits that many got from grammar schools, in the wider education system. And so we’re definitely obviously going to be beavering away at that, and see where we get to”.

“Grammar schools are not just about results or economics, they’re about a kind of educational ethos. And if we can capture that in policy terms, then I think we’ll make everybody happy.”

But many in the sector are against expanding selection. Professor Becky Francis, the boss of the government’s go-to body for showing what works in education, urged new ministers last week to “focus on evidence not ideology” over potential plans for new grammar schools.

In an interview with Schools Week, Francis, the chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said the evidence was “pretty clear” that grammar school expansion was “unlikely to reduce education inequality” – and could widen it.

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