Skip to main content

Exclusive: New boss at England's biggest academy chain to consider converting schools to grammars

Julian Drinkall, Academies Enterprise Trust chief executive, says selection decision will depend on his academies' 'markets'

News article image

The new head of the country’s largest multi-academy trust has told TES that he will consider introducing academic selection to his schools.

Julian Drinkall, chief executive of the Academies Enterprise Trust, said: “I think that as we look at each of those schools in the particular markets and catchment areas in which they exist, there might be arguments for selection in certain places."

The 52-year old, who used to run an independent schools' group, took over as the £240,000-year boss of AET this month.

In September, the government controversially proposed an expansion of academic selection in its Green Paper, Schools that Work for Everyone.

As well as proposing the creation of the first new grammar schools for decades, the Green Paper suggests that existing non-selective schools could be permitted to go selective.

Grammar schools 'could make sense'

Asked for his views on the policies, Mr Drinkall said: “I think there will be arguments where grammar schools in certain areas make sense and there will be a number of areas where it doesn’t make sense.”

“I think you do have to go piece by piece,” the old Etonian added. “There is a need to innovate and experiment, so there should always be some new types of schools that are being tried.”

He is only the second multi-academy trust chief executive to indicate that they could introduce selection.

Sir Daniel Moynihan, boss of the Harris Federation, has said that if the government presses ahead with its plans, his trust could be forced to add grammars to its mix to prevent top pupils from being creamed off.

Mr Drinkall, who previously ran one of the country’s largest providers of private schools, the Alpha Plus Group, said that he has a “very eclectic view of education”.

He said he believed that there are “lots of quite specific and different educational models that need to be adopted at the same time”.

However, he added that selection was “not an immediate priority” for AET and said the MAT needed to “make sure the existing schools we’ve got are doing absolutely their best”.

He also said that “to put all one’s hopes behind one initiative on a national basis” was “not probably the right way to go”.

This is an edited article from the 20 January edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article hereTo subscribe, click 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.

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you