By Daniel Round, Stourbridge CLP
The government is set to establish a £50m expansion fund for grammar schools. While the Tories say this new money will only be available to grammars that agree to boost applications from disadvantaged students, it is an insult to ordinary schools that are struggling to provide basic resources for their classrooms. 26.1% of local authority secondary schools are now in deficit (up from 8.8% in just three years), forced to reduce staff numbers and essential supplies as cuts bite. Where is the money for these struggling schools?
Nearly three-quarters of grammar schools are in Tory-held constituencies, and only 2% of grammar school pupils receive free school meals – compared with around 15% in other state secondary schools. The idea that handouts for elite grammars will be good for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, even if some do manage to improve their intake of poorer students, is obviously laughable.
The Tories have also announced plans to provide funds for councils to create new, often divisive faith schools. Both plans have been sharply criticised by the teachers’ unions.
Shadow Secretary of State for Education Angela Rayner has said: “Just weeks after abandoning their own guarantee to protect every school from cash cuts, the Tories have excluded the vast majority of schools from any extra funding”, and that “the continued obsession with grammar schools will do nothing for the vast majority of children – it is absurd for ministers to push ahead with plans to expand them when the evidence is clear that they do nothing to improve social mobility.”
Rayner has been strong on the issue of selective schools but less so elsewhere, saying Labour needs to “move on” from the debate about academisation. Socialists must challenge this and, in addition to campaigning against education cuts and selection, promote a more radical debate around Labour’s National Education Service.
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