News Sep 2nd 2016

Leaked Document Details May's Grammar School Plans

girl with book on head

New UK Prime Minister Theresa May already has enough to contend with in the impending pressure of getting the recently voted Brexit ball rolling. Now she is faced with a new wave of criticism and controversy with the leak of what is believed to be a document that lays out plans to create a new generation of traditional grammar schools.

Leaked information reveals plans to approve a movement toward allowing schools to be more selective with their intake of pupils, something to which the opposing Labour party and high profile teaching unions have been vocal in their opposition.

The document states that the government will "open new grammars", and the fact that new laws would be required to allow this plan to be put in to place. It also states an awareness that the House of Lords would be likely to try to veto this move, in support of a ban on new selective schools imposed by Tony Blair in 1998. However, Tory MPs have been seen to be more willing to revert to the old system, claiming that the popularity of grammar schools, wherever they are, signals the needs for more.

For as long as they have existed, grammar schools have been a controversial topic of discussion. Though the aim for this new generation of selective schools is being put forward under the tagline of prioritising disadvantaged and poor pupils, there is a worry from those against the plan that bringing back this selective system will naturally lead to more division between school age children from different social and economic backgrounds, as well as children with vastly different levels of intelligence when the factor of entry exams comes in to play.

The key difference in this new imagined grammar school future from May is that schools will be required to choose pupils from poorer backgrounds when there is a case in which their test results score the same as a pupil from a more comfortable, middle class household. This kind of idea might work in theory, but when schools are left to their own devices, it could be argued that it will be very hard to govern such a plan, with the school bodies eventually moulding the student intake in to whatever model they wish due to the selective powers that they have been given.

In theory, this proposed grammar school system will be a far cry from the old, traditional images of the richest children attending whilst the more disadvantaged are left to attend the local comprehensive. This is an image of education that hasn't quite left the country, with many still critical of the top universities like Oxford and Cambridge and their inequality when it comes to a breakdown of the social and economic backgrounds of their students.

Angela Rayer, the Shadow Secretary of Education for Labour, has rubbished the idea and the positive spin that the Tories have attached to the plans, instead criticising and claiming that "behind closed doors the Tories are planning a return to the bad old days of grammars, ignoring all the evidence which has told us time and again that they do not aid social mobility". Similarly, Unison, the representative union of thousands of education workers throughout the country, has vehemently opposed the introduction of new grammar schools, stating that rather than creating more equal opportunity amongst backgrounds, they would instead only serve to make the system even more elitist that many believe it is now.

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