MP COLUMN: Devil will be in detail over grammar schools debate

High Peak MP Andrew Bingham.
High Peak MP Andrew Bingham.

By Andrew Bingham, MP for Buxton

Westminster returned from the summer recess last week with the new Prime Minister, Theresa May facing the house.

Theresa became Prime Minister just before the house rose for the summer so, whilst this wasn’t her first time in front of Parliament as Prime Minister, it is now that her premiership will begin to take shape and her ministerial team start to work with colleagues from all sides.

The business of the House was overshadowed with the discussions over grammar schools. There has been a lot spoken over the last few days about the merits or otherwise of grammar schools and academic selection of pupils at the age of 11.

Personally I attended what was then Long Lane Comprehensive in Chapel-en-le-Frith, so I have no experience of the grammar/secondary modern system.

I hear both sides of the argument over selection and grammar schools and I am still undecided as to whether a return to this would be a good thing or otherwise.

The suggestion that schools will be able to go down this route if they wish is something I would like to look at in more depth, and I suspect the devil will be in the detail of whatever shape the policy takes. I have already had emails from constituents on both sides of the debate and I will read all letters I get on the subject carefully.

It is still some way from becoming law, but as the proposals develop, more detail becomes available and I speak to both constituents and educationalists, then I will form my views on whether this is a good policy that I would be able to support.

My initial concerns are that if academic selection was done at aged 11 then I want to see that those who did not go to grammar school are not left behind with any form of second-class education. The initial proposals as outlined are to relax the restrictions that stop non-selective schools becoming selective where there is a demand, in return for these schools making a meaningful contribution to raising outcomes for all pupils in every part of the system.

I want to see what exactly this will mean in practice. If the proposals can prove this would give greater opportunity to all pupils regardless of their background and stretches the most academically able, then it will be worthy of support.

We are at a very early stage of this debate so it will be some time before any vote on legislation takes place, but I will watch and study the details in the intervening time.