The Prime Minister and local MP Theresa May has said there should be "good school places for all" but has also said that she would like to introduce more grammar schools. What discussions has the current Executive Member had with officers on the subject of grammar schools?
The Prime Minister and local MP Theresa May has said there should be "good school places for all" but has also said that she would like to introduce more grammar schools. What discussions has the current Executive Member had with Officers on the subject of grammar schools?
I answered a very similar question in the September Full Council meeting. Prior to that there had been discussion in a couple of my regular meetings with Children’s Services leaders which followed some correspondence before the recent announcements. At that point I asked Officers to draw together a short briefing paper (which has now been superseded by the current events).
After Justin Greening’s announcement we did discuss this topic again and I am sure you will have expected as much. However, the conversation was fairly brief as we concluded that until the Government released the final detail any conclusions we came to would, of course, be hypothetical.
Discussions with Officers touched on the Sevenoaks example which didn’t fit our circumstances but also looked at the potential for a change in the law. Now we know that the Government has launched consultation on possible changes, including expansion of grammar schools, establishment of new ones and changes of status for existing non-selective schools.
In full Council in September I said the starting point was that Wokingham’s comprehensive, maintained and academy schools are amongst the best in the country. Pupils do well here and this year’s results show that yet again.
In Wokingham I believe that we are always prepared to look carefully at different ways of doing things. If there is to be a change in the law, following the current consultation, this might be a change in the balance of pros and cons. However, it wouldn’t change my sense that we want to work with all of our schools and we’re interested in our education system as a whole. Taking collectively the added value in our comprehensive schools, they are amongst the very best in the country, the Wokingham system is hard to beat.
Wokingham children here do brilliantly. Our schools achieve that for our local children and metaphorically I take my hat off to all of them.
I am pleased though that you accept the principle in my question – a good school place for all. The excellence for all approach. I am surprised and disappointed that ahead of any change in the law so much discussion has already gone on with the subject of grammar schools. I think that is very premature and obviously bearing in mind the challenges that the Government already faces I would have thought it would have been wise to wait until we have some certainties rather than the certainties of a speech at the party conference to rely on.
I also wonder whether in the discussions that you have had you have paid any attention to the words of our friend, everybody’s friend, Sir Michael Wilshaw the Head of Ofsted quoted here as saying “a new wave of grammar schools is socially divisive and will lower the standards for the majority of pupils”?
I do believe that we should aim for excellence for all and I think Wokingham is very good at that. Discussions so far, as I have said, have not been very much in depth. There was a small paper that we drew together but that was not with the paper in mind or the consultation in mind that has recently come out. We do not want to hypothesise about what will happen and that is the wrong thing to do and so for Sir Michael Wilshaw’s quote about it being socially divisive we need to make sure that all of our schools are providing an excellent education for all and we will take all of the pros and all of the cons in this consultation forward when we put in our submission.