Mike Kane MP, Shadow Minister for Schools:
Grammar schools represent the Prime Minister’s flagship policy for improving outcomes, but according to today’s edition of The Independent, officials in the Department have said that there is no chance of a new selective school before 2020. Will the Secretary of State tell us how many selective schools will be built during the current Parliament?
The consultation finished last week, and we will now look at the responses. However, I think we should recognise that we need an education system that provides more good school places, especially for children living in parts of the country that do not have access to them. I hope that, rather than carping without making any suggestions, we can have a good debate following the consultation, and also provide those additional grammar school places.
In answer to my earlier question, the Secretary of State failed to commit to building a new selective school during this Parliament. Today the Education Policy Institute has released evidence showing that the 11-plus test cannot be tutor-proofed. Does she agree that selection at 11 will favour families that can afford it and do nothing to improve the educational outcomes of the most disadvantaged pupils?
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. As usual, we have had criticism from the Opposition, but no alternative policies whatever—and, indeed, a continued failure to set out whether they would close existing grammars. It would be fantastic to get clarity at some stage on Labour party policy. We want more good school places for children, particularly disadvantaged children. We know that disadvantaged children on free school meals who get into grammars see their attainment gap close by the time they leave.