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Education Secretary Justine Greening 'open-minded' about new grammar schools

Published 17/07/2016

Justine Greening said she was
Justine Greening said she was "open-minded" to Tory calls for new grammar schools

The new Education Secretary has left the door open to allowing new selective state schools in England but suggested they may not be "old-fashioned" grammar schools.

Justine Greening said she was "open-minded" to Tory calls for new grammar schools but insisted the education system has changed "dramatically" from the "binary" choice between grammar and secondary modern schools.

Graham Brady, chair of the influential backbench Tory 1922 Committee, has urged the Government to repeal the "silly ban" on new grammar schools passed by Labour in 1998 in Sunday newspaper interviews.

And Prime Minister Theresa May is thought to be a supporter of new selective schools having reportedly backed a grammar school's proposal to open a new "annexe" in her Maidenhead constituency.

Mrs May's new chief of staff Nick Timothy has also backed new selective schools in the past.

Ms Greening suggested the Government could allow some form of selection in the new "landscape" of education, in which free schools can be set up independently of central control.

The Education Secretary told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "The setting in which schools find themselves has actually changed quite dramatically, it's gone from really being a binary world in many respects to being an education world where there are many different schools now that have many different offers.

"So I think we need to be prepared to be open-minded."

She went on: "I've been in this job two or three days, I'm not going to make some big sweeping policy pronouncement, I'm going to take a very measured, sensible approach in this role.

"And I recognise that this is an important debate so of course I've got lots of things in my in-tray, I will work my way through them very, very carefully over the coming weeks."

Asked if she was completely closed-minded to the idea, Ms Greening said: "I think that the education debate on grammar schools has been going for a very long time but I also recognise that the landscape in which it takes place has changed fundamentally and I think we need to be able to move this debate on and look at things as they are today and maybe step away from a more old-fashioned debate around grammar schools and work out where they fit in today's landscape."

Alex Shapland-Howes, managing director of social mobility charity Future First, said: "The key priority for the new Secretary of State has to be reducing the gap in outcomes between those born in high and low income homes.

"In particular, we urge the new government to continue growing the investment in ensuring all young people have access to career role models."

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron spoke out against selective schools.

"Segregating our schooling is not going to create a fairer more united society, Theresa May should start by ensuring our schools are properly funded and teachers are better supported," he said.

"A strong, open and accessible education system is vital to a healthy and fair society. Opening new grammar schools is a step in the wrong direction which the Liberal Democrats will continue to oppose.

"If Theresa May is serious about fighting the burning injustices in our society she could start by keeping her hands off our school system."

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From Belfast Telegraph