When education secretary Justine Greening launched the Norwich opportunity area at City College Norwich in October, she said: “In the end, it will be up to the local communities whether they want a grammar school to open in their area, but what we are committed to in the meantime is making sure that opportunity areas like Norwich are lifted in terms of education outcomes for young people.”
Dick Palmer, chief executive of the Transforming Education in Norfolk (Ten) Group – which runs institutions in the city including the college, a secondary school academy and a university technical college – told TES that there was some parental demand for greater choice locally.
But he said his professional opinion was that grammar schools did not improve social mobility, and, after internal discussions, the Ten Group had ruled out introducing selection within its schools.
Similarly, Ormiston Academies Trust, which runs former grammar City of Norwich School, said that it, too, was not looking at setting up a grammar within its family of schools, or as part of the Norwich opportunity area.
While Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, expressed an interest in using academic selection to improve social mobility in the city, others involved in the opportunity area said the idea had not been raised in meetings.
Chris Starkie, managing director of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “It’s our understanding that opportunity areas and the government’s consultation on selective schools are separate policies.
“The LEP is looking forward to working with all partners to help improve educational and career opportunities for every young person in Norwich.”
Scott Lyons, joint division secretary for the Norfolk division of the NUT teaching union, said: “This is not the time for a select few to be given the hollow promise of opportunity. Proper funding and raising the profession will help give the right education and the right opportunities to the many rather than the few.”
A spokesman for Norfolk County Council, which is a member of the opportunity area board, said there had been “no discussion so far about a grammar school in Norwich”.
He added that the council’s Children’s Services Committee responded to the government’s grammar school consultation by saying “the evidence that underpinned the argument in the document was not compelling for the expansion of grammar schools into Norfolk”.