Do the Tories have a hidden agenda on grammar schools?

Wording of Conservative manifesto leaves the door open to building more controversial grammar schools, says EPI

Election 2019: Have the Conservatives left the door open to building more grammar schools?

The Conservative Party could be planning to create more grammar schools if it is elected to another term in office, it is claimed.

Despite no direct mention of grammar schools in the Conservative manifesto, the way the document is worded “leaves the option open,” says the Education Policy Institute (EPI) think tank.

At a press conference yesterday, EPI senior researchers drew journalists' attention to the line which states: “We will continue to ensure that parents can choose the schools that best suit their children and best prepare them for the future.”


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Natalie Perera, EPI’s head of research and executive director,  said: “I think this wording allows [the Conservatives] not necessarily to get into a debate now about grammar schools, but if they want to do it later on it gives them a mandate to do that potentially.

More grammar schools?

“There are lots of people who like grammar schools and it plays well with some of the Conservative voters. Equally, there are lots of people who understand the downside of having more grammars schools and grammar school places.”

However, a source close to education secretary Gavin Williamson told Tes last month that the Tories had no plans to expand grammar schools after the election.

Research this year into the benefits of grammar schools includes that from the Higher Education Policy Institute, which shows that grammars boost poorer pupils’ chances of getting into top universities.

But recent research by FFT Education Datalab shows that students attending secondary moderns and comprehensives in selective areas did worse when it came to getting the best GCSE grades and going to top universities.

Jon Andrews, deputy head of research at EPI, said the issue of more grammar schools had been "a big divider” in the previous election in 2017.

Referring to the wording of this year's Conservative manifesto, he said: “We think it leaves the option to expand or create new grammar schools, although they’re not saying it explicitly.”

The Conservative Party has been contacted for comment.

 

 

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