High schools will be protected in the upheaval of the British education system
High schools must be protected in a new white paper, The Telegraph has learned, as MPs call for selective school drivers in red wall seats.
It came after the government announced that several areas in the north of England could apply for additional funding to set up selective sixth form state colleges for highly academic pupils.
Now ministers are being urged to go further and use the forthcoming Education White Paper to lift an ‘absurd’ ban on new high schools.
Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, received a series of suggestions from backbench MPs on ways to expand the existing supply of high schools in England.
These include allowing high schools to retain their selective status when joining multi-academy trusts and removing the requirement for independent schools to become comprehensive if they become an academy.
MPs are also pushing for the education secretary to authorize the creation of new selective schools in existing high school areas and authorize a pilot project for new grammars in non-school areas, which they say would receive support in the red wall seats.
“A lot of enthusiasm for high schools”
“There is a lot of enthusiasm on the backbenches for selection under a massive education system,” a Tory MP told The Telegraph. “Many colleagues see education as a top priority. They see it as related to the upgrade program.
“What bothers me is that there are places in the country that have grammars and places that don’t. You have different types of upbringing that put you on different life paths.
Mr Zahawi is said to privately support grammar schools and has three in his own constituency of Stratford-on-Avon. In 2016, he wrote an article for the Conservative Home website praising the “exceptional” education grammars provide, the opportunities they provide for “children from all walks of life” and expressed his support for their expansion.
However, government sources insist that there are currently no plans to lift existing restrictions on the establishment of new high schools.
“The repeal of the ban on high schools is long overdue”
The white paper, due out on Monday, will mention ways in which the government wants to support and protect existing high schools, The Telegraph said.
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee, said it was “complete nonsense” that it was illegal to establish new grammar schools.
“It was in the 2017 Conservative Party manifesto that we would lift the legal ban on selective schools and it is high time we did,” he said.
“Regions such as Trafford or Buckinghamshire, which currently have selective education, are among the best performing regions in terms of the schooling gap between the most well-off and disadvantaged children.
“If this were the case throughout the country, then social mobility would be greater and more children from poor backgrounds would go to the best universities. Enabling people to have the same opportunity today would be an important part of the government’s upgrading program.
Additional Funding for Red Wall Areas
In January, the Department of Education announced that Red Wall areas would receive additional funding to establish selective sixth form colleges.
Officials hope to replicate the success of schools in the capital – such as the London Academy of Excellence in Stratford, dubbed ‘the Eton of the East End’ – which are very successful in sending students from poor households to Oxbridge and other other Russell Group universities. .
These include several areas of northern England as well as the Midlands, seats which the Conservatives won from Labor in the 2019 election.
The white paper will also detail Mr Zahawi’s ambition to raise numeracy and literacy standards in schools, and is expected to outline Number 10’s desire for more schools to join multi-academy trusts.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: ‘High schools are a valuable part of the school system. But there are no plans to authorize the opening of new high schools.