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Grammar school expansion dropped from government agenda in Queen’s Speech

PUBLISHED: 12:33 21 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:35 21 June 2017

Queen Elizabeth II reading the Queen's Speech in the House of Lords. Photo: PA Wire

Queen Elizabeth II reading the Queen's Speech in the House of Lords. Photo: PA Wire

A number of non-selective head teachers wrote to Theresa May last year outlining opposition to the plans

Theresa May’s plans to expand grammar schools have been dropped, after the Queen announced the government’s legislative programme on Wednesday.

The prime minister’s flagship education policy since taking the keys to number 10 has proved divisive, not least in Kent where a number of non-selective head teachers wrote to Mrs May at the end of last year, outlining their opposition to the proposed expansion.

The letter said: “What does the selective system achieve? It certainly serves to erode self-confidence, to limit aspirations and develop a culture of ‘second best’ that good leaders in non-selective schools then spend time undoing so that they can unlock the students’ true potential.”

Yet despite the growing chorus of opposition, the proposals continued to receive the backing of Kent County Council and a number of the county’s MPs.

It was one of the key pledges in the Conservative manifesto released before this month’s general election, but after the Tories lost their overall Commons majority following a disastrous campaign. it was not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech in the House of Lords.

The manifesto pledge said: “We will lift the ban on the establishment of selective schools, subject to conditions, such as allowing pupils to join at other ages as well as eleven.

“Contrary to what some people allege, official research shows that slightly more children from ordinary, working class families attend selective schools as a percentage of the school intake compared to non-selective schools.

“While the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils stands at 25 per cent across the country, at selective schools it falls to almost zero.”

Instead, the monarch said: “My government will continue to work to ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend a good school and that all schools are fairly funded.

“My ministers will work to ensure people have the skills they need for the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future, including through a major reform of technical education.”

Responding to the omission was the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He told MPs: “There was nothing about grammar schools in the gracious speech.

“Does the prime minister now agree with her predecessor that it is delusional to think that a policy of expanding the number of grammar schools is either a good idea, a sellable idea, or even a right idea?”

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