Grammar schools and their organisations dominated meetings with the Department for Education’s Selective Education Team both during and after the consultation about Schools that Work for Everyone, Freedom of Information reveals.
Four meetings were held with the Grammar Schools Heads Association (GSHA). One of these, on 14 December just two days after the consultation officially closed, was deemed so important that Education Secretary Justine Greening and schools minister Nick Gibb were present. This was the only Selective Education Team meeting Greening and Gibb attended.
The GHSA described the meetings in its Spring Newsletter which said the new grammars would be restricted to the top 10%. According to The Times (11 March 2017 behind paywall), this claim was incorrect. It had been ‘based on a misunderstanding and caused anger in Whitehall’.
The National Grammar Schools Association was also present at the 14 December meeting.
17 grammars had at least one meeting with the Selective Education Team. A federation with five grammars, The King Edward VI Foundation, had five meetings. One multi-academy trust comprising two grammar schools, Robert Carre, met the team once. One bilateral school, Ashlawn School, which partially selects on academy ability and aptitude for modern foreign languages, met twice. 24 selective schools and one bilateral school then, had at least one meeting.
This compares with just over 20 comprehensive schools which had a meeting with the Selective Education Team. As there are over 3000 state-funded comprehensive schools, just 163 grammars and ten bilateral schools which partially select on academic ability, the number of meetings with selective schools seems disproportionately large.
The Selective Education Team did meet with other organisations such as the National Governors Association, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Reform and the Education Policy Institute. Five unions met the team once. One, the NAHT, had two meetings. Sixteen councils, including local authorities with selective schools such as Kent, Lincolnshire and Warwickshire, met on 15 November. About four admissions group had a meeting as did three faith groups. The Caholic Education Service had two. I found just one independent school, Brighton College, had met the team. Eight primary schools had one meeting on the same day.
The overwhelming impression, however, is that the team’s meeting schedule was dominated by selective schools and organisations which represented them. This adds to the suspicion, already fuelled by disquiet about the written consultation, that the DfE is seeking policy-based evidence rather than persuing evidence-based policies.