Exclusive: Further blow for grammar schools plan as Ark boss speaks out against selection

Lucy Heller says Ark wants to help disadvantaged and so will not "go down the grammar route"

Will Hazell & Eleanor Busby

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Theresa May’s proposals to create new grammar schools have received another blow after the boss of Ark academy chain has said she will not introduce any selection. 

Lucy Heller, chief executive of Ark – one of England's oldest and most high profile multi-academy trusts (MATs) – has told Tes that the chain, which operates 35 schools, will hold the line against academic selection.

"If you want to get a measure of a society, it’s not, in a way, what it does for the brightest, for the most able – it’s how it treats its most disadvantaged," she said in an interview conducted before Thursday's election. 

“The schools that we run now, mixed schools for all students, are where we can deliver great education. So no, I don’t think that we will go down the grammar route.”

News of her comments come as Sir Daniel Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, another of the country’s biggest academy chains, said it would not convert any of its schools.

'The status quo is not working'

The MAT boss had previously said he might be forced to open grammars to stop the chain’s best pupils being creamed off by rival selective schools.

But speaking to The Times today, he said: "Many secondary schools are failing to challenge and support their most able pupils. The status quo is not working but grammars are not the answer.

"The damage they create for the rest of system is too great, with other good local schools being destroyed. The Conservatives were right to ask the question but grammars are not the answer.”

MATs were seen as likely early adopters of the grammar school policy – but the recent comments will come as another blow to Theresa May's plans to reintroduce grammar schools, already hit by the Conservatives losing their majority. 

Heath Monk, executive director of the King Edward VI Foundation, which runs five schools in Birmingham and is thought to have inspired the government's plans, has told Tes he doesn't think there should be any further selection in the city. 

“We are not looking to open any more selective schools in Birmingham," he said. "We think there is a place for more selection but we don’t think it is here."

Subscribers can read the full interview with Lucy Heller here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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