NORTH Wiltshire MP James Gray has spoken out in support of government plans, announced today, to lift the ban on introducing new grammar schools.
The government was forced to confirm its plans after a document was photographed being taken in 10 Downing Street this week, hinting at their likely expansion.
Having attend one himself, Mr Gray says he thinks grammars are “good institutions”, however believes it is unlikely there would be a “need” for one in Malmesbury and surrounding areas.
“I’m in favour of grammars as they assist with social mobility, taking the brightness and giving them the education they need,” he said.
“In north Wiltshire however, I don’t really see a need for a grammar school, as the standard of schools is very high.
“I can’t imagine a circumstance where we would end up needing one.”
Concerns have been raised by many that grammars increase the class divide, with rich parents being able to afford to pay for their children to have lessons to pass the entrance exams.
Mr Gray dismissed this suggestion however, saying: “It is certainly true that if you can afford extra lessons you will do better, that is the reality of life.
“My father was completely broke at times but I went to a fee paying grammar. He chose to spend his money on his children’s education, rather than drink or smoke cigarettes.”
Others have raised concerns about the selective nature of grammars, suggesting it teaches some children they are failures from a young age.
In response Mr Gray said that selection already takes place all over the country.
“In the comprehensives in our area, a lot of streaming already goes on,” he said.
“If you’re good at Latin you get put in a higher Latin class. It enables people to succeed.
“So I am in favour of selection, inside as well as outside of the school.”
In responding to an urgent question on the issue in parliament today, the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, said: “We do think selection can play a role.”
She went on to say a new grammar scheme would be “a 21st-century approach, precisely not one that’s rooted in the 1960s and 1970s”.
“There will be no return to the simplistic, binary choice of the past, where schools separate children into winners and losers, successes or failures,” Greening said. “This government wants to focus on the future.”
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) have spoken out against the plans, saying they represent “a regressive move and a distraction from the real problems facing schools and education”.
Andy Woolley, South West regional secretary of the NUT, said: “Teacher retention and recruitment is at dangerously low levels, assessment is in disarray and insufficient school funding is impacting on the quality and range of educational experiences teachers can offer students.
“These are the issues that need addressing, not a return to an archaic idea that has been roundly rejected for decades.
“Social mobility is a problem but as all the evidence shows it is one that will not be addressed by selective education.
“A Sutton Trust report showed that less than three per cent of entrants to grammar schools are entitled to free school meals, while many grammar school heads were concerned that children from middle class families were coached to pass the entrance exam.
“The Conservatives experiment with education is not working. Parents and teachers have seen the consequences of choice in school provision. Figures out today show that two academies per week in England are facing formal interventions due to concerns about performance. Many free schools have been caught up in mismanagement and financial scandals.
“Grammar schools are nothing more than window dressing. It is time for government to step back and take a long hard look at what is needed to ensure that all children are given the education they deserve.”