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Exclusive: Grammars view Damian Hinds' appointment as boost for expansion plans

New education secretary was a pupil at a Catholic boys' grammar school

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New education secretary was a pupil at a Catholic boys' grammar school

Grammar school heads believe the appointment of an ex-grammar school pupil as education secretary is likely to put their expansion plans back on the agenda.

Theresa May’s plans to change the law to allow the creation of completely new selective schools were scuppered after she lost her Commons majority last year.

However, the current legal framework allows existing grammar schools to expand or open new schools as "annexes". But the Department for Education under Justine Greening did not make this a priority after the election.

Now, the appointment of Damian Hinds, who was educated at a Catholic boys' grammar school, as her successor has been interpreted as opening the door to stronger DfE support for grammars to expand.

Jim Skinner, chief executive of the Grammar School Heads' Association, told Tes: “I believe there are a number of schools that are looking at annex development and it may well be that he is more sympathetic to that type of expansion. I would hope he would be more sympathetic.”

And asked whether Mr Hinds’ appointment would make it more likely that grammar schools considering expansion would put their plans into action, he said: “It could well do.”

'Putting their heads above the paparet'

However, he said it was unlikely that any would “put their head above the parapet” until they had a better indication of the new secretary of state’s thinking.

He added that the legal restrictions on the creation of annexes meant it would not be possible to create what were effectively new grammar schools in parts of the country where there are currently no existing selective schools.

Last week, BBC research showed that there had been a 7 per cent rise in the number of pupils in grammar schools between 2009-10 and 2016-17, despite a 2.5 per cent fall in the number of 11-15-year olds in the grammar school areas over the same period.

Grammar schools are still waiting to hear whether the government will deliver the four-year, £200 million pot to fund grammar school expansion that was promised in 2016.

Writing for Tes today, Natalie Perera, executive director at the Education Policy Institute, said that Mr Hinds’ party will be expecting him to “shift back to more traditional Conservative policies” – including the expansion of grammars and faith-based admissions.

She told Tes: “I think the point is that they have an opportunity to stretch the current legislation as far as it will go.”

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