Teachers criticise the Tories’ latest education wheeze
TEACHING unions and Labour railed against the Tory government’s plans announced yesterday to introduce a new wave of grammar schools that would exclude the vast majority of poorer children.
Education Secretary Justine Greening outlined the proposal for a new model of state-funded selective schools, claiming they would cater for children in receipt of free school meals as well as suburban “ordinary working families” on household incomes of around £33,000.
But unions and the Labour Party called for funding to be concentrated on comprehensive schools, which do not require applicants to pass the 11-plus exam to be accepted.
It is “ridiculous” to be spending money ringfenced for education on the expansion of grammar schools, said National Union of Teachers general secretary Kevin Courtney.
He predicted that a few “handpicked working-class ‘deserving’ children” would be given expensive tutoring — like that of their more privileged peers — at a discount or free of charge to get them through entrance exams so that the government can “prove” that its system works.
Mr Courtney added: “[Grammars] will do nothing for social mobility. They would create a raft of secondary modern schools in their wake and would return England to a two-tier education system that was deemed unfit decades ago.
“The Education Secretary has not confirmed there will be quotas for pupils from disadvantaged families and this makes a mockery of claims that this policy will benefit poorer families.”
Children should not have their futures determined by a test at the age of 11, he continued, and the Tories have no electoral mandate for these plans because they are not mentioned in their manifesto.
Ms Greening — who went to a comprehensive school — also suggested that the mushrooming of “free schools” would allow more organisations and private companies to push their way into the education sector “to meet demand.”
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said the expansion of grammars would “label the majority of children failures” by the age of 11.
General secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “It will damage children’s self-confidence and ambition and blight their lives.
“It will squander the talent and skills of the majority of children and risks losing potential engineers, designers, scientists, doctors, lawyers and teachers from less advantaged families.
“No-one has managed to produce an 11-plus test that can accurately predict the academic potential of children, nor one that it is not possible to coach children to pass.”
Creating new grammars distracts from school funding cuts, shortages of teachers and school places and the increase of mental health problems in children, Ms Bousted also said.
Teaching union NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates agreed, adding that there was already “increased covert selection” in the school system due to deregulation.
This is done in ways such as requiring parents to make financial contributions to the school, buy expensive uniforms from sole suppliers and pay for expensive trips.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said grammars were a barrier to social mobility.
She accused the government of trying to “fiddle the figures” to support a policy that has caused division even among Tories.
She added: “While the government only looks to improve the education of a privileged few, Labour will improve outcomes for all by delivering free school meals to every primary school pupil in England.”