Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Headteachers attack May's plan for return of grammar schools

HEADTEACHERS in Henley and South Oxfordshire have criticised the Government’s plans to re-introduce grammar schools.

A letter denouncing the proposals has been sent to Prime Minister Theresa May and Education Secretary Justine Greening, signed by 32 heads across Oxfordshire.

Signatories include the headteachers of Gillotts School in Henley, Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common, Langtree School in Woodcote and Icknield Community College in Watlington.

They say the plans are “retrograde and dangerous” and not supported by teachers or evidence.

Catharine Darnton, headteacher at Gillotts, said her school lost funding when children left to attend grammar schools in Buckinghamshire because it is an academy and funded on a per-pupil basis.

She said: “At Gillotts we’re in a particularly strong position to have an informed view on the impact this could have.

“We have children who start with us in year seven but we then lose them part way through their education despite our success, which is equivalent to the grammar schools in terms of progress.

“We feel the impact. The most able students help set the standards and they are fantastic role models to those in the stage behind them, so they know what great success looks like.

“It’s hard to describe how difficult I found it to hear in the Government’s autumn statement about making grammar schools an option, when all the research says this will not improve outcomes for disadvantaged young people.

“It’s simply a distraction. Schools are desperate for funding and teaching supply to be improved.”

Daniel Sadler, headteacher at Chiltern Edge, said: “There is no evidence that grammar schools improve standards, nor is there any evidence that selection improves outcomes for young people.

“The evidence being used is very selective about more able students doing better.

“It is socially divisive. It is my view that comprehensive community schools provide the best outcomes for the whole population. This is an unnecessary distraction when there are serious issues to deal with in the education system. The Government should be focusing on funding schools properly, improving the supply of teachers and stopping people leaving the profession.”

Rick Holroyd, headteacher of Langtree School, said: “Grammar schools may, at the very best, provide a limited opportunity for enhanced social mobility for the select few but only to the detriment of the many.

“There is no evidence base to support the view that grammar schools would enhance social mobility for all students.

“We only have to look at the example of counties which have selective education, such as Kent, to see that grammar schools have done nothing to improve the educational prospects, or life chances, for the vast majority of students.

“My view is that improving educational standards and enhancing social mobility for all is better served through the provision of good and outstanding, inclusive schools working together in effective partnership for the benefit of all.

“That is what we have in Oxfordshire, where educational outcomes have improved significantly in recent years and where these improvements have had a positive impact on the life chances of all students.

“To introduce grammar schools into our local landscape would have a devastating effect on the success of our good and outstanding schools and would change the nature of these schools irrevocably.

“It needs to be remembered that every grammar school needs to be served by two or three schools reminiscent in design to the old secondary modern schools, which did little or nothing for social mobility or for the aspiration of the students within them. Is this the sort of landscape we really want to see in Oxfordshire?

“There are many critical issues which demand urgent attention of ministers, which are far more important than considering the re-introduction of selective education.

“School funding, teacher shortages and adequate provision for adolescent mental health are three issues which should have a far higher priority than the proposal for grammar schools, which is not even part of the current Conservative manifesto for education.”

l What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email letters@henleystandard,.co.uk

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