Nick Gibb responds to academic criticism of grammar schools

The TES is reporting that academics today told the Commons education selection committee that they were sceptical about whether the government’s plans to increase the number of grammar schools will increase social mobility.

Nick Gibb, minister for school standards, admitted that the evidence about existing grammar schools is “mixed”, but stressed that the latest proposals are for a new type of system, which will force selective schools to support non-selective schools.

Here are six highlights from the committee’s “evidence check” on the plans, which are currently under consultation.

1. Social mobility

They referred to statistics showing that, currently, an average of 2.5 per cent of pupils at grammar schools are entitled to free school meals, compared with an average of 9 per cent of the school population in the same areas.

Mr Gibb said there would be strict conditions on new or expanded grammar schools to ensure they take in enough disadvantaged children, or supported local non-selective schools.

2. Selection at 11?

Dr Allen said selection at 14 would be better than at 11 – if only because it would delay the damage she said selection causes. But she warned that selection could actually put children from a disadvantaged background at a further disadvantage.

3. ‘Tutor-proof’ tests

There was significant scepticism about whether it was possible to create a tutor-proof test, which could remove the advantage for children from better-off families who can afford private tutoring.

Asked whether it was possible to produce a tutor-proof test, Mr Gibb said: “That would be the holy grail, and grammar schools are trying to do that.”

To read all six highlights visit: Nick Gibb responds to academic criticism of grammar schools

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter. ~ Sophie

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  1. Nairb1

    Gibb simply mouths platitudes. And he repeats his arrogant view that grammar schools must use their expertise to help teachers in other schools. What expertise is that? Their expertise with special needs pupils? Or is it their expertise in working with pupils from families who don’t value education and resent authority? Maybe it’s their huge expertise in educating the 75% of pupils who aren’t deemed good enough for their ‘outstanding’ provision.

  2. Nairb1 It’s attitudes like Gibb’s that feed the perception that excellent teaching is only found in grammars (and also private schools).  Why else would he suggest a drip-down approach whereby grammars would share their ‘expertise’ with non-grammars?

  3. What a tendentious questionnaire.  I have followed Janet’s suggestion and responded to it, although most of my answers are blank spaces!  Against several I have simply put “loaded question”.  

    My best answer is to “What contribution could the biggest and most successful independent schools make to the state school system?”  My response:  “None.  Alternatively , if they were closed down many of their teachers might be re-employed in the state system.”  

    I am really sickened that our DfE can circulate such a document.  How it can be entitled “Schools that Work for Everyone” beats me.

  4. Britinfloridaus

    Janet2 Nairb1 Surely everyone should share their experience, irrespective of what type of school they are. There are many schools that do not meet the needs of those academically able.  I can think of a maintained school where half the teachers are unqualified, but the pupils gained last summer 80% 5 A* – C.  They too, must be doing something right. But there would be many who would criticise the school for not employing QTS staff.

  5. Michael Bassey The grammar questionnaire certainly gives a new meaning to ‘consultation’ – assume everyone responding agrees with the policy on which we’re consulting and just ask them for improvement suggestions.
    For example, the questionnaire assumes grammars have ‘benefits’ which can be ‘brought to bear’ on non-selective schools.  I replied:
    ‘There are no benefits to local non-selective schools by the presence of selective ones.  Their presence is negative.  In areas such as Lincolnshire where selection never went away, the perception is that grammars are best and non-selective schools are second-best.  No amount of high-sounding rhetoric will disguise that ugly fact.’

  6. Britinfloridaus Janet2 Nairb1 I’ve nothing against schools sharing expertise regardless of type.  I was  once in a TVEI consortium comprising one special school, three non-selective schools and a grammar.  We supported each other.   It’s the perception that only grammars have expertise worth sharing that I object to.
    Schools should meet the needs of all pupils.  If they are letting down certain pupils, whether high, average of below-average ability, they are failing.
    Not quite sure what the anecdote how the maintained school having 50% unqualified teachers contributes to the sharing of expertise.  That said, all teachers benefit from teacher education.  QTS is only the start.  But it’s a foundation that all teachers should have or be working towards.  This should then be built upon by continuous professional development.
    It degrades teaching to imply that it’s OK to employ non-qualified personnel as ‘teachers’.

  7. Britinfloridaus

    Mike Bell Is that not what Minsters are for to carry out the business of Government.  Correct me if I am wrong Academies were not in Labour’s 1997 manifesto, but a Minster made that decision.  So this is nothing new.

  8. Britinfloridaus Mike Bell Just had a look at Labour’s 1997 Manifesto
    You’re right: It didn’t mention academies by name but did
    say LAs would be required to devolve power and money to heads.  It promised public/private partnerships to improve
    school building (no mention of businesses sponsoring schools).   It also promised where ‘failing schools [are]
    unable to improve, ministers will order a ‘fresh start’…’ (I
    suppose this hints at academies but that’s only speculation.)
    One promise overturned was the rejection of ‘the
    Tories’ obsession with school structures’. 
    Labour said ‘Standards, more than structures, are the key to success. Labour
    will never put dogma before children’s education.’
    This turned out to be a hollow statement.  Labour became obsessed with ‘structures’ and
    promoted academies.  As I wrote here,
    deception about academies has been going on since they first began:
    It may be ‘nothing new’ for ministers to make arbitrary decisions but this doesn’t mean we should accept this without comment or notr question whether ministers were taking too much power.  We’re supposed to be a parliamentary documentary not ruled by an executive.  Wasn’t that what Brexit was supposed to be about?

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