Kent teachers fear thousands of children will suffer ‘second rate education’ as Theresa May steps up grammar school plans
09:28 14 September 2016
Christine Dickinson of the NUT says the prime minister’s measures to increase social mobility will fail
Teachers across the county fear more children will suffer a “second rate education” after Theresa May last week announced plans to introduce a new wave of grammar schools.
The controversial selective system, which critics say unfairly brands children a failure should they not pass the 11-plus test at the end of primary school, has been banned from opening new schools of that kind since 1998.
But the prime minister now appears to intend to kickstart the biggest shake-up of education in England in decades by unveiling a comprehensive package of measures to radically increase the number of good school places – in order to ensure that all children have the best possible start in life.
“We are going to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few,” Mrs May said.
“A fundamental part of that is having schools that give every child the best start in life, regardless of their background.
“For too long we have tolerated a system that contains an arbitrary rule preventing selective schools from being established – sacrificing children’s potential because of dogma and ideology.
“The truth is that we already have selection in our school system – and its selection by house price, selection by wealth. That is simply unfair.
“That is why I am announcing an ambitious package of education reforms to ensure that every child has the chance to go to a good school.
“As well as allowing new selective schools we will bring forward a new requirement that means universities who want to charge higher fees will be required to establish a new school or sponsor an existing underperforming school.
“This is about being unapologetic for our belief in social mobility and making this country a true meritocracy – a country that works for everyone.”
That aim of social mobility, shared by Kent County Council, will be achieved, the prime ministar says, by requiring new or expanding grammars to take a proportion of pupils from lower income households, so that selective education is not reserved for those with the means to move into a catchment area or pay for tuition to pass the test.
Alternatively, the measures would require such schools to establish a new, high quality, non-selective free school, set up or sponsor a primary feeder school in an area with a high density of lower income households or sponsor a currently underperforming non-selective academy.
Yet the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in Kent believes the prime minister’s measures to increase social mobility will fail, and the current gap between the quality of education received across the county will increase.
“We have a lot of evidence and research to show that when you cream off the top of academic students, you end up with those that are left receiving a second class education,” divisional secretary Christine Dickinson told us.
“I don’t think the quotas Mrs May wants to put in place will make any kind of difference.
“The whole system is totally wrong for a child’s development because they develop in different ways.
“Even within a calendar year, some younger children will be behind at certain point, so I think it’s wrong.”