Exclusive: DfE 'must explain why its selective education team still exists'

11th October 2017 at 17:15
Grammar schools met with the specialist DfE team last month, despite ministers abandoning plans to open new grammars

Campaigners have called on the Department for Education to explain why a "selective education team" is still in operation after the government dropped its plans to open a wave of new grammar schools.

Admissions campaign group Comprehensive Future is concerned that the expansion of academic selection will still go ahead – through annexes of existing grammar schools, or via multi-academy trusts.

The selective education team in the DfE was formed in October 2016 – just weeks after the Schools that Work for Everyone Green Paper was launched, outlining plans for new grammar schools.

A newsletter from the Grammar Schools Heads’ Association (GSHA) has revealed that the team still exists, despite the fact that plans to create new selective schools were abandoned after the general election.  

It says GSHA executive officers met with officials from the team as recently as last month, and discussed ways in which the organisation “might work with the selective education team going forward".

Joanne Bartley, from Comprehensive Future, which is anti-selection, said: “The fact the selective education team still operates suggests the government still has plans to expand academic selection.

“The government's small minority means they may not be able to change the law, but selection within multi-academy trusts or [through] building 'annexe' schools miles from the main school, are two methods this team may now be working on secretly."

'The threat of increased selection hasn't gone away'

The expansion of existing grammars was on the agenda before the government announced its now-abandoned plans for new selective schools last year.

In October 2015, then education secretary Nicky Morgan gave the green light for an annexe of the existing Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge. This annexe opened in Sevenoaks on a site 10 miles away from the existing grammar school last month.

Ms Bartley added: “We need to know why the DfE still has a department working on selection, and we're sure the threat of increased selection has not gone away.”

In a response to a parliamentary question on expanding existing grammar schools, schools minister Nick Gibb said in July: “The government has made clear its commitment to continue to support all good and outstanding schools to expand where there is a need for more good school places.

“Any proposals to expand on to a satellite site would need to demonstrate that they are an expansion of an existing school, and a decision would be made on the circumstances of each case.”

The DfE was contacted for comment.

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