Schools minister Nick Gibb has said that new grammar schools will “go beyond” the curriculum taught in non-selective state schools, offering their pupils a more “intensive academic education”.
Pupils who pass the entrance exam and gain entry to such schools will learn “more languages” and be taught a “more knowledge-rich” curriuculum than those who do not, he added.
Mr Gibb made the comments at the ResearchEd conference in London this morning just a day after prime minister Theresa May announced her hugely controversial plans to dramatically expand the number of grammar schools in England.
In his speech, Mr Gibb listed the reforms brought in by the Conservatives, including overhauling the curriculum and introducing the English Baccalaureate, the collection of traditionally academic subjects that all secondary pupils will have to study, as evidence of the government’s commitment to raising standards.
And Mr Gibb gave a glimpse of what the difference would be between the education offered at a grammar and a non-selective school where 90 per cent of pupils will be taking the Ebacc.
Responding to a question from the audience, Mr Gibb said: “A selective education can differ from that because you may want to go beyond the Ebacc combination. [Grammar schools] may want children to be learning two or three languages, they may want a more knowledge rich, a more intensive academic education that goes way beyond the curriculum that is delivered by the GCSEs.
“We want to make sure that every child has their potential fulfilled to the maximum,” he added.
The Conservative MP stressed that despite expanding the number of selective schools across the country, it would not return to a “binary” education system of the 1950s.
His comments followed a stinging attack from the former education secretary Nicky Morgan who blasted the proposals as risking undermining six years’ worth of Conservative education reforms.
But Mr Gibb brushed aside the attacks, adding that people would find the proposals, which will be published in a green paper on Monday, “very persuasive”.
“This is a very important set of reforms and it is building on the education reforms we brought in,” he said.
“In many ways the only reason we can do this is because of the improvements in education across the board since 2010. And I think once people see the proposals and the conditions that apply on grammar schools that want to expand and those schools that want to adopt selection criteria, my view is that it will be very persuasive.”
The minister added that there could be further advantages to be had from more grammar schools in terms of sharing the lessons learnt in selective schools.
“I want to see grammar schools continue to improve themselves and I would like us to be able to learn and to look at the curriculum that is being taught in the grammar schools to see if we can adopt some of that curriculum in comprehensive schools,” he added.