‘We’ll press ahead quickly with grammars insists schools minister @NickGibbMP’ tweeted the Department for Education (DfE) on Valentine’s Day. This was accompanied by a large blue box containing another Gibb quote: ‘We will not ease up on our quest to ensure this country’s education system works for all’.
This echo of Churchill’s ‘We shall fight on the beaches…’ appeared a day after publication of the Education Select Committee’s ‘politely brutal’ report on selection. This said the proposed policy on grammar schools was an ‘unnecessary distraction’ and the Government had ‘yet to prove the case’ for setting up new selective schools.
The Government claims its White Paper, Schools That Work for Everyone, will mean more good school places. The DfE is clear what this means: grammar schools. Between 12 December and 30 December, the DfE published six tweets all containing large red or blue boxes. These were titled ‘Good school places – Grammar Schools’.
The slogan ‘Good school places – Grammar Schools' implies the best places are in selective schools. But there are thousands of non-selective secondary schools which are also good or better. The DfE’s insistence on linking ‘good school places’ with ‘grammar schools’ suggests that good or better non-selective schools aren’t quite as good or better as selective ones.
Nick Gibb still insists that proposals in the White Paper will result in England’s education system working for all. But the revelation that any new grammars would take only the top 10% raises the question of how this will work for the remaining 90%. The consultation document made no reference to new grammars being super-selective.
Three of the December tweets promoting grammar schools were published on 12 December, the last day of consultation. The other three appeared after the consultation period officially ended. DfE continuous promotion during this period rather smacks of desperation. Or did the DfE quietly extend the consultation deadline? This blog from DfE media published on 5 December says the consultation ended on 20 December. It could be a typo, of course, but the question remains why the DfE continued to push grammar schools right up to the end of December if the consultation had finished.
Promotion of selection hasn’t stopped. Nick Gibb was still pushing it on Valentine’s Day. This rather draws attention away from more pressing education issues. He’s still flinging the dead cat. But, as I wrote earlier this week, the deceased tabby reeks. It should be entombed.