As published in the Daily Mail:
Tory Backlash after OFSTED chief sneers at Grammar
MPs challenge claim that selective schools are too middle class
THE Chief Inspector of Schools faced a barrage of criticism from Conservative MPs last night after he said grammar schools are stuffed full of middle-class kids’.
Sir Michael Wilshaw said the dominance of affluent children meant selective state schools had almost no role in improving the education of the poor. A tiny percentage are on free school meals – three per cent. That is a nonsense,’ he said.
Anyone who thinks grammar schools are going to increase social mobility needs to look at those figures. I don’t think they work.’ His comments angered Tory MPs who believe expanding the grammar system could help reverse the decline in social mobility. Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, described Sir Michael’s intervention as unwise’.
The former education spokesman, whose Altrincham and Sale constituency is a bastion of the grammar school system, said: We have some very bad schools in this country and I think the chief inspector would be better advised to focus his attention on improving those, not criticising some of the good ones.’
Mr Brady said grammar schools sometimes ended up selecting fewer children from poor homes because they had been failed by the state primary system.
He said he was angry’ that Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael appeared to have ignored evidence that high schools that operate alongside grammars in areas such as Trafford in Greater Manchester show incredibly good performance’.
Statistics show areas with selective state schools dominated GCSE and A-level results last year.
Reading came top, with 45.9 per cent of pupils gaining grades AAB or equivalent in 2012, followed by Trafford with 34.5 per cent. The state sector average is 16.8 per cent. High-performing local education authorities (LEA) with selective schools also included Southend-on-Sea in Essex and Torbay in Devon, which have some of the worst areas of deprivation in the UK. Seven of the top ten best performing LEAs at GCSE also offered grammar school places.
Tory grandee David Davis, who also went to grammar school, said the system should be maintained at all costs’ because it remained the way working-class children get their chance in life, on an equal footing to children who can go to the private sector’.
He admitted that poorer youngsters had been elbowed out by ambitious middle class parents’ in some areas.
But he said the decline of grammars had left Britain more dominated than it ought to be by the products of private schools’. He suggested this could be reversed if the grammar school system was allowed to expand.
However, in an interview with the Observer, Sir Michael suggested grammar schools only helped an elite 10 per cent of pupils – often with pushy parents.
It is the second blow in a week for the grammar system, following a decision by Education Secretary Michael Gove on Friday to block an application to create a new supergrammar’ in Sevenoaks, Kent.
The scheme was the first test of new rules that allow grammars to expand on satellite sites. But education sources said the bid was botched’ and would have effectively created a new selective school, which is banned under existing law.
Yesterday the Department for Education refused to be drawn on the comments by Sir Michael, who also claimed in a wide-ranging interview that summer holidays were too long and admitted that when he used the cane during his time as a teacher in the 1970s it had never worked’.
But he highlighted the role that pushy parents’ could play in driving up standards. Pushy parents have usually got kids in schools where, because they are pushing hard, standards rise,’ he said.
Grammar schools are stuffed full of middle-class kids. A tiny percentage are on free school meals – 3% . . . Anyone who thinks they’re going to increase social mobility needs to look at those figures