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Boris Johnson suggests ban on new grammar schools could be lifted

A ban on new grammar schools could be lifted - some fifteen years after the Conservative party said it would not permit them to be built.

Boris Johnson has dropped a hint that he is looking at how new grammar schools could be permitted.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hinted at changing the law on grammar schools (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hinted at changing the law on grammar schools (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

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In an interview, he said he had “never been against academic selection” but acknowledged there were potential hurdles, saying “it would depend how you did it.”

The possibility of new grammar schools was denounced by campaign group Comprehensive Future. Jo Bartley said the PM was motivated by the need to promote policies that appealed to conservative traditionalists.

"Boris Johnson's knee-jerk reaction to recent by-election defeats seems to be to try to prop up support with the old fashioned traditionalist policies that please a certain sort of Tory MP," she said.

"Grammar school policy fits this bill, just like bringing back imperial measures. Polling shows these sorts of policy are supported by older people but rejected by the young.”

She said the myth grammars boost social mobility had been dismissed by countless research studies.

She added: “We only need to look at Kent's below average school results to see that expanding academic selection would be a terrible idea. If Boris Johnson wants to 'level up' the country then grammar schools are a policy plan that will fail.”

Kent has been at the centre of the debate on grammar schools after it used legislation allowing schools to expand to meet changes in the population.

It opened what was dubbed an "annex" in Sevenoaks which became part of the Weald of Kent Girls Grammar School in 2017.

At the same time, the policy U-turn could run into difficulties particularly with non-selective schools.

It is now 15 years since the then shadow education secretary David Willets said a future Tory-led government would not sanction any new grammars. He said the chances of a child from a poor background getting a grammar place was "shockingly low."

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has stopped short of endorsing the idea of allowing new grammars, saying he wants to “spread the DNA” of grammar schools through the system, absorbing more of the institutions into a “family of multi-academy trusts” while protecting their status.

It comes just two weeks after Baroness Blower proposed to scrap the 11 Plus and convert Kent's grammar schools into non-selectives.

Ashford MP Damian Green said: "I would not mind at all if if the ban was lifted.

"There is clearly a demand for grammar schools and if you look more widely, say in Germany, which has better vocational training than we have traditionally had, about one third of their most academically able pupils go to their equivalent of a grammar school whereas we have about 25%. If I was starting from scratch, then I would widen the parameters."

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