Grammar school debate grows after 'leak'

James Harrison

The prospect of a grammar school for Maidenhead looks a step closer after a Whitehall mandarin was snapped with what appeared to be plans to relax existing rules.

According to several reports on Tuesday, a senior civil servant was spotted outside No 10 holding a sheet of typed notes outlining proposals for a radical revision of existing education policy.

The document appears to pave the way not only for expansion of existing grammar schools, an option that is currently being examined by the Royal Borough and Marlow’s Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, but also for completely new ones to be created.

However, despite the embarrassing leak, the issue was not raised at yesterday’s session of Prime Minister’s Questions.

Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Maidenhead Riverside), leader of the Royal Borough, said the council would have to ‘wait and see’ about what it could mean for education policy in the long term.

“It may be that it’s about satellite schools, it could be new ones,” he said.

“We’re pro choice, but we’re also pro outstanding choice and all our pupils having outstanding schools.

“We want to see every child in the Royal Borough achieve their potential, regardless of their background.

“We believe grammars could play a part in that but not just for those children who can afford tuition (for the 11+).”

While some have seen the plans as an indication the door is about to be opened to new grammar schools, some see it as a sign the idea is going to be quietly scrapped.

Jo Smith, a spokeswoman for the Excellent Education for Everyone campaign group, said: “What we think the document shows is that Justine Greening (Secretary of State for Education) won’t support the opening of new grammar schools unless they can also support the people who won’t get in.

“Part of me feels this is it being kicked into the long-grass.

“A selective system disadvantages people who don’t go to grammar schools, that’s why most of them were got rid of in the 1970s.”

Last month, the Advertiser conducted a poll asking readers whether a satellite grammar school should be built in Maidenhead. Out of 336 votes cast, 58 per cent were against the idea, 39 per cent were in favour and three per cent were undecided.

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