On Thursday 13 April, Education Secretary Justine Greening was a guest on BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme. She was quizzed over the government’s plans for grammar schools to “help ordinary working families”. But one question left Greening floundering. And for someone advocating grammar schools, there was a distinct lack of grammar in her response.
Yeah, but… No, but…
Greening was talking about the government’s plans to make grammar schools accessible to all pupils. Even those from the poorest backgrounds. But it is moving its focus away from the most disadvantaged pupils. And it aims to target working families with incomes up to £33,000 to get their children to attend grammar schools. Not children who get (2:21:50) free school meals or are on the pupil premium.
But she was left floundering as an unusually probing John Humphrys asked her (2:16:40) to name experts who supported the grammar school plans. And her response was telling:
Humphrys continued his questioning of Greening by levelling at her that:
The fact is… [that] Grammar schools disproportionately benefit the best off…
Greening responded by saying:
I want to see all grammars… doing a much stronger job…
But Humphrys interrupted her:
So they’ve failed up to now… that’s the point. You accept that? In the sense of social mobility, they have failed?
Greening denied this was the case:
No I wouldn’t say that… I think for disadvantaged children getting into grammars they do a fantastic job of closing the attainment gap…
Humphrys later said (2:19:58):
But if you have selective education… you cannot do anything about the fact that, if you’ve got more money, if you’re middle class… you can pay for you children to have extra tuition…
He also asked Greening (2:20:33) if there would be set quotas for the number of poorer children allowed into grammar schools. And Greening did not deny this fact, saying “we’ll be setting out our proposals in a forthcoming white paper”.
Greening also said (8:55) on BBC Breakfast that the government is putting in “record amounts” of funding for education. And that the Tories are “absolutely committed” to ensuring “all schools” get the most out of that money:
But Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, said:
The facts are clear, grammar schools will do nothing to help the overwhelming majority of working families across the country. The Government’s attempt to fiddle the figures to support their discredited and divisive policy does not change the basic reality that for the overwhelming majority, academic selection is a barrier to social mobility, and the Government’s plans to return to the days of secondary moderns will only make this worse.
And Greening’s faltering interview on the Today programme does nothing to quash Rayner’s assertion. As always with the Tories, it appears that money talks. And those who have it are at a far better advantage in a Conservative UK than the rest of us.
– Read more from The Canary on grammar schools.
Featured image via screengrab
We need your help ...
The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.
Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.
We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.
Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?