Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, comments on plans announced today by Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education.

“Education in our country is facing real problems – mental health issues for our children, a growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis, and huge funding cuts. This Government seems to have no idea how to tackle these problems and is simply recycling its same old failed policies.

“The grammar school corpse has climbed out of its coffin once again despite evidence of the damage that selective education causes. Once prior attainment and pupil background is taken into account, research shows there is no overall attainment impact of grammar schools, either positive or negative. (1) Furthermore, the attainment of grammar school pupils comes at the expense of those who don’t pass their 11-plus, with pupil attainment at secondary moderns in areas with a selective education system lower than that of their counterparts in comprehensive schools. (2)   Selective education systems are also linked with greater inequality in social outcomes later in life. (3)

“In the face of such overwhelming evidence, it therefore beggars belief that the Government has announced it will plough £50 million to expand the number of places at existing selective grammar schools.  Schools up and down the country are desperately short of funds. This is money that would be better invested in ensuring all schools could provide for the basic needs of their pupils without having to ask for money from parents.

“Expanding the number of unaccountable free schools will not solve the school place shortage. Instead, Government must return powers and funding to local authorities to enable them to plan and manage school places in a rational and cost-effective way. Schools must be accountable to communities, this is the only way we can avoid the academic and governance failures and school closures that have characterised the free schools programme to date.

“The retention of the 50% cap on faith admissions to free schools is welcome. While some parents may welcome the expansion of voluntary-aided faith schools, the Government should not confine plans to open new schools to this route. Many communities need new schools to cope with rising demand and taxpayer funded capital funding should be available to meet local need across the board. Local authorities are best placed to consult communities and determine the appropriate provision in their area.

“The experience of universities and independent schools working with the state sector to raise attainment has not been a positive one to date. This is another ideologically-driven initiative that lacks an evidence base to support it. The funding for this new ‘dedicated unit’ to promote such partnerships should be diverted instead to state schools which are crying out for the funding they need to educate their pupils and students.”

ENDS

2018-054-NEU

Editor’s Notes

1. Rebecca Johnes, Jo Hutchinson and Jon Andrews (September 2016), Grammar Schools And Social Mobility, Education Policy Institute. Summary available here: https://epi.org.uk/report/grammar-schools-social-mobility/  Full report available at: http://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Grammar-schools-and-social-mobility_.pdf

2. Freddie Whittaker (25 July 2016), ‘Fact-check: Do the arguments for new grammar schools stack up?’ Schools Week,

3. OECD (2016), Equations and Inequalities – Making Mathematics Accessible to All, OECD Publishing, Paris. p. 90.

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