Prime Minister Theresa May announced today that her government intends to remove the ban on new grammar schools in England. Reacting to the news, Andrew Shilling of the Sevenoaks Grammar School Campaign said:-
“The proposed removal of the ban on new grammar schools is excellent news for Sevenoaks parents. This is because the lifting of the ban will, for the first time, permit grammar school places to be provided for the boys in our town, rather than just places for the girls.
“Weald of Kent Grammar School (the sponsor of the Sevenoaks girls’ grammar annexe) will now be able to create a co-educational, stand alone, grammar school in Sevenoaks without the need to follow the same curriculum, share the same facilities, follow the same admissions policy, and use the same teaching staff, as the parent school in Tonbridge. Over time this should enable the Sevenoaks grammar school to develop its own distinct identity and ethos, and to become one of the few co-educational grammar schools in Kent serving its local community.
“There however remains a formidable legal hurdle to the removal of the grammar school ban, namely The House Of Lords where Labour and Liberal Democrat peers outnumber Conservatives peers, and have indicated that they will block this law change. To overcome this block, the removal of the ban will need to be included in the Conservative party manifesto at the next General Election, and the Conservatives will then need to win the election and form the next government. I therefore hope that Theresa May will call an early General Election and then win it, because then we would quickly get our Sevenoaks grammar school for boys and girls, and not just for girls.
“Sevenoaks parents can feel very proud of their crucial intervention into the national debate on the return of grammar schools. Our campaign for a Sevenoaks grammar school began nearly five years ago, and was then seized on by the national press as a cause celebre, and triggered and continued to feed the national debate on the return of grammar schools.
“Our campaign had the effect of inspiring parents in other towns to campaign for their own grammar schools, including crucially parents in Theresa May’s constituency of Maidenhead. Sevenoaks parents also showed that new grammar schools are an incredibly popular policy, and far more popular than conventional political thinking had anticipated or considered.
“Our campaign inadvertently tapped into a wellspring of strong pro-grammar school feeling amongst parents, something that our privately educated political leaders had either missed or ignored. This pro-grammar feeling was created by the experience of parents themselves, particularly those who had moved down from London to Sevenoaks and had attended London comprehensive schools in the 1980s and 1990s and had received a poor experience, and therefore wanted much better state schooling for their own children and sought to find this in Kent’s grammar schools.
“Theresa May and her team would not have proposed lifting the ban on new grammar schools without first calculating that this would be a popular and vote-winning policy, as well as the right thing to do. What started in Sevenoaks may end up being adopted countrywide.”