Surrey heads voice 'vehement opposition' to grammar school plan

Schools in high-profile Tory MPs' seats say grammars policy is 'predicated on a nostalgic and unrealistic vision of society'

Richard Vaughan

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Surrey’s secondary headteachers have written to the prime minister and education secretary to voice their “deeply held, vehement opposition” to the government’s grammar school plans.

Each of the county’s 64 secondary heads have signed the letter in a bid to highlight the “fundamental philosophical and systematic flaws” in the government’s proposals to expand the number of selective schools.

The correspondence comes from schools in areas represented by a number of high-profile Cabinet members, such as chancellor Phillip Hammond, health secretary Jeremy Hunt and transport secretary Chris Grayling. Former education secretary Michael Gove, who recently came out in support of the grammar policy, also has his seat in Surrey.

The letter follows Theresa May’s announcement back in September of her intention to increase the number of grammars in England in an attempt to boost social mobility.

Last month she pledged to open the first new grammar school for 50 years in her speech at the Conservative Party conference.

The decision has been roundly criticised, with Surrey’s heads stating in their letter that the “arguments for selective education fail to withstand rigorous challenge”.

The letter warns: “At its best, the government’s selective school proposals represent further confusion and fragmentation of England’s education policy. At its worst, this policy is predicated on a nostalgic and unrealistic vision of society, the debate around which deflects attention from the real issues facing schools today: continuing funding cuts, an unassuaged and escalating recruitment crisis and the introduction of new GSCE qualifications with yet to be defined grade boundaries and, in many cases, ill-prepared specifications, to name but a few.”

The signatories add that Surrey’s comprehensive schools have delivered an education system which “genuinely is for everyone, with able pupils achieving highly, social mobility and the absence of the stigma of failure at the age of 11”.

The heads state they have signed the letter to “publicise their opposition to selective segregation in education”.

The Department for Education said in a statement: “The government wants to make this a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. Grammar schools have a track record of closing the attainment gap between children on free school meals and their better off classmates, and 99 per cent of grammars schools are rated good or outstanding. We want all children, whatever their background, to have access to an education that will unlock their talents. That’s why we will scrap the ban on new grammar schools and make more good school places available, to more parents, in more parts of the country.”

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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