Education Secretary says focus must be on inflation as grammar school plans take a back seat
In recent months, the number of Government policy U-turns resulting from the keys to Number 10 changing hands three times in the space of just seven weeks, has affected virtually every ministerial department.
In education, the changing fortunes of grammar schools has been keenly felt in recent weeks.
Liz Truss made no secret of her support for grammar schools, asking former Education Secretary, Kit Malthouse to lift the current ban and prioritise plans for new grammar schools across England.
However, with Ms Truss’ demise and the appointment of Rishi Sunak as the new Prime Minister in late October, new Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, has made it clear that she instead intends to focus on the majority of pupils in “comprehensive education”.
In Nick Robinson’s Political Thinking podcast, Ms Keegan said: “The thing about grammar schools is 90-odd per cent of kids just never get to go to one.
“What I’m focused on is the 90-odd per cent who will go to comprehensive education, like I did.
“I’m not against them – people who went to grammar school see them as a life-changing moment, and they have changed lives like my apprenticeship changed lives, so people love them. But we’ve got to focus on the 90-odd per cent who don’t get to go.”
Although Rishi Sunak had previously made it clear that he supported grammar schools during his first failed leadership bid, he has not publicly stated whether he intends to lift the ban on new grammar schools being built.
Ms Keegan has said that, rather than being drawn on the future of grammar schools, her department’s priority is to ensure that all schools are supported during this fiscally challenging times.
In Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement, an additional £2.3 billion was pledged to support schools. However, a detailed breakdown of how this money will be spent is still awaited.
Ms Keegan has, in turn, said that her focus will be to support the Government in its plans to “tackle inflation and bring it under control”.
Although she has promised to “put the case for education”, she warned that “any spending decision that’s made, any, whether it’s up or down, any of it will all get eaten by inflation. So the number one thing you have to do is you need to get inflation under control. Otherwise all the other numbers are kind of irrelevant”.