Grammars are go! (not)

"The schools that work for everyone consultation closed on December 12...As the Secretary of State told the House of Commons on Monday, we have received several thousand submissions, which we are now going through. We will respond in the spring."

So said a DfE spokeswoman, according to The Independent (9.2.17), in a news story about what had emerged from the minutes of meetings between ministers, education advisers and the Grammar School Heads' Association.

According to the same report, "Education Secretary Justine Greening said the response to the consultation on increasing selection, which closed in December, was not "an overwhelming flood of negativity"." Interesting phrase, that. It suggests that she was expecting such a flood. Why would that be, I wonder? Is she, perhaps, considering "alternative facts"?

In his Autumn Statement last year, Philip Hammond announced £50 million capital spending for new grammar schools (£200 million by 2021), despite the fact that the consultation had not been completed - and the responses still haven't all been read, even. This announcement came in a financial context which sees the following:

  • £140 million strategic school improvement funding announced in December including £50 million for support to LAs - but Education Support Grant cut by £600 million
  • National Audit Office criticises DfE accounts for the second year running - "lacking truth and fairness"
  • NAO says that schools face 8% real terms cuts by 2019/20
  • More schools and academies with surpluses but also more with deficits - and size of deficits growing
  • Apprenticeship levy for schools from April 2017

Leaving that to one side just for a minute, clearly the most important issue for the DfE and government is the reintroduction of grammar schools, showing clearly how they have their finger on the pulse of the nation - well, the section that votes UKIP, at least.

Yet their ambition barely deserves the name. The Guardian reported that "The government appears to be dampening down expectations over building a new wave of grammar schools, telling the policy's supporters that any new selective schools would not open until 2020 and would only cater for about one in 10 secondary school pupils in England. It also appears to be backing away from its claim that grammar schools improve social mobility, after supporters were told there was a "move away from focusing on social mobility to social reform" and that focusing too much on disadvantaged pupils would be replaced by "a determination to address the needs of Jams" (just about managing families) instead."

And they've backed off from the idea of pupil transfer to grammar schools after the age of 11, realising that it might not work. Does this mean "back to the 11 plus"? Apparently not. "Education chiefs are also considering a "national selection test", it has been revealed, in order to help prevent "test tourism", where parents enter their children for exams in different areas where they are considered easier."

I wonder what they'll call it? How about the STSFTG (Separating The Sheep From The Goats) test or WNP ("Waitrose Not Poundland") assessment? Maybe FJTG ("From JAMmer to Grammar"). OK - you do better, then...

2020 is an interesting year to choose for the opening of the first new grammar free school...or should that be free grammar school. Oh, there we go again - the problem of inventing new names for things. "Grammar free school" suggests a lack of attention to clause analysis whereas "free grammar school" signals a return to the hippy-dippy idealism of the 1960s with its misremembered willingness to abandon all agreed linguistic rules.

Anyway - 2020. The year of the next election. Three years away. An awful lot can go wrong in three years. Or, if you're President Chump, in three days.

Here's the lovely Dominic Cummings on a similar subject, writing in The Spectator recently about his single-handed triumph in persuading the nation to take leave of its senses and Vote Leave by telling massive lies:

"Would we have won without £350m/NHS? All our research and the close result strongly suggests No...Some people now claim this was cynical and we never intended to spend more on the NHS. Wrong. Boris and Gove were agreed and determined to do exactly this. On the morning of 24 June, they both came into HQ. In the tiny 'operations room' amid beer cans, champagne bottles, and general bedlam I said to Boris - on day one of being PM you should immediately announce the extra £100 million per week for the NHS [the specific pledge we'd made] is starting today and more will be coming - you should start off by being unusual, a political who actually delivers what they promise. 'Absolutely. ABSOLUTELY. We MUST do this, no question, we'll park our tanks EVERYWHERE' he said. Gove strongly agreed. If they had not blown up this would have happened."

If they had not blown up this would have happened.

Right.

I recently re-watched every series of The Thick of It, mainly for nostalgic reasons, going back to a time when politics had more integrity and relationship to reality than it does now.

Maybe I should have watched Dads Army instead, since we shouldn't panic, but we're all doomed.

 

 

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