Rather than becoming consumed in a debate about educationally and socially divisive structural chang
Commenting on the Prime Minister’s statements in relation to grammar schools, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, said:
“The Prime Minister says that she wants an ‘element of selection in the school system’. Alan Milburn, the Government’s social mobility zsar, says that this risks ‘recreating an us and them’ in the education system. Mr Milburn goes on to warn of a ‘social mobility disaster.’ It is clear from these statements that neither of them have a clue what is already happening in schools now.
“There is already more than an ‘element’ of selection in the system. Selection is deeply rooted and the warnings on the adverse impact on social mobility are too late.
“The education policies of the previous Coalition Government, continued by this one, premised on extensive and excessive autonomy for schools and the obsessive pursuit of deregulation, have rapidly increased covert selection, often targeted at pupils from materially deprived backgrounds.
“Sending out strong advance signals to prospective families that if their child obtains a place at the school they will be expected to make significant financial contributions to school funds, requirements to purchase uniforms from expensive sole suppliers and charging for educational activities are all strategies of covert selection.
“It is now a reality that access to education for some children and young people is based on their parents’ ability to pay.
“Over three million children in the UK live in poverty, a key inhibitor to educational progress, and experience every day the harsh realities of cuts to welfare, specialist services and support, education grants and the wider effects of the recession.
“The values and ethos of a public education service, which should secure and deliver the entitlement of all children and young people to access high quality education, have been seriously compromised.
“Structural change in education is the hallmark of the last six years of Government, despite the fact that there is no evidence that it raises standards.
“Rather than becoming consumed in a debate about even more educationally and socially divisive changes to the structure of our school system, the Prime Minister should focus on tackling the deep educational inequalities which are the legacy of her predecessor.”