Queen's Speech: Grammar school plans dropped, funding formula promised, but little else for schools

21st June 2017 at 11:46
Government promises green paper on Children and Young People’s Mental Health

Explicit proposals for new grammar schools have been dropped from the Queen's Speech, as the government outlined its legislative priorities for the next two years to Parliament.

The speech reaffirmed the government's commitment to introduce a national funding formula for schools, and promised a "major reform of technical education".

The Queen said the government would "continue to work to ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend a good school and that all schools are fairly funded".

The notes to the speech also said the government would publish a Green Paper on Children and Young People’s Mental Health "focused on helping our youngest and most vulnerable members of society receive the best start in life".

The notes said: "This will make sure best practice is being used consistently and will help to accelerate improvements across all services so that children and young people get the right mix of prevention and specialist support."

The list of new laws unveiled by the Queen did not include any other major proposals affecting schools, suggesting schools may enjoy a period of respite from further major unheavals in the system – for two years, at least.

Selective schools plan 'a dangerous distraction'

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Schools and colleges will be relieved that there are no immediate plans to introduce further reforms in a sector which has had more than its fair share of change and badly needs a breathing space.

“But we are concerned to see that the government still intends to bring forward unspecified proposals during the course of the parliament.

“We sincerely hope that this is not an attempt to revive its plans to expand the number of selective schools in England. This policy is a dangerous distraction from the really important issues of funding and teacher supply and it should be consigned to history."

But a Department for Education source said: "Overturning the ban [on new grammar schools] is not in the Queen's speech and is not going to happen."

Theresa May had made the expansion of selective education the centrepiece of her first major speech on domestic policy after becoming prime minister, and it was a key pledge in the Conservative's election manifesto.

However, the Tory's loss of their majority led to speculation that the government would not be able to get the hugely controversial proposals through the House of Commons.

Other high-profile education pledges absent from the slimmed-down Queen's Speech included scrapping free school meals for all infants.

Journalists were briefed yesterday that the proposal, which proved highly unpopular on doorsteps during the election campaign, would not go ahead.

Prime minister has 'seen sense' on grammars

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, welcomed the decision to drop the grammar school proposals.

She told Tes: "Theresa May has been forced to see sense. Grammar schools were an unnecessary distraction from the real issues facing our education system – schools suffering funding cuts, a teacher recruitment and retention crisis caused by low pay."

She said the lack of major education proposals in the Queen's Speech would "create quite serious problems for education ministers".

"Politicians are used to surging ahead with legislation and one of the key reasons for that is because it acts as a distraction from the consequences of previous legislation.

"This government would very much like to leave behind a lot of funding, qualification reform, reform to the curriculum and teacher supply, and insufficient supply of school places.

"All of these are issues that are going to come back to bite ministers on the backside repeatedly and they are not going to be able to get away from it, and there won't be any nice shiny legislation to take the focus away from that."

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