Exclusive: Grammar schools within MATs plan 'unlawful', says union

2nd December 2016 at 08:48
Meopham School
Ministers’ grammar school plans have been dealt two blows, with lawyers arguing that a key plank of the scheme is 'not lawful' and plans for a comprehensive to convert scuppered by lack of parental support

The NUT teaching union has received legal advice stating that the government’s grammar school plans via multi-academy trusts (MATs) would break the law, TES can reveal.

The disclosure comes after it emerged that the first non-selective secondary to register interest in becoming a grammar – Meopham School in Kent – had decided against it after parents were split 50/50 “for” and “against”.

In September, the government published its grammar school Green Paper Schools that Work for Everyone, which included a proposal to “encourage multi-academy trusts to select within their trust”.

“We will make clear that multi-academy trusts …[can] establish a single centre in which to educate their ‘most able’ pupils,” the paper states.

It says that this form of selection is permissible because pupils are identified as “most able” after being admitted to school “through a non-selective admissions process”.

However, the NUT said it had received legal advice that this was incorrect.

Kevin Courtney, the union’s general secretary, outlined its legal objections in a letter sent to education secretary Justine Greening last week, shared exclusively with TES.

“I am advised that selection within academy trusts in the manner described in the Green Paper – whether it is read as referring to admission to a specific school within the trust or to a ‘centre of excellence’ which is not itself a school – is not lawful,” Mr Courtney writes.

Asked whether the NUT would consider seeking a judicial review if the government continued on its current course, Mr Courtney said the union would “keep all options open”.

Meopham School, a non-selective secondary near Gravesend run by the Swale Academies Trust, issued a consultation in September asking whether it should offer “mixed grammar provision”.

The trust’s principal, Jon Whitcombe told TES that the consultation response “was as close to 50/50 as you could get”, so the trust had opted for a “halfway house” between its current arrangement and full selection in the form of a “grammar stream”.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Streaming pupils by ability is, and has always been, allowed at all schools.

“Multi-academy trusts have always been able to pool their resources to deliver these benefits on a larger scale and across different sites within the trust, and we want to see more do this.”

This is an edited article from the 02 December edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article 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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