- The Government’s proposal to establish a £50 million pot to allow grammar schools to expand is a huge distraction from the real problems facing education – underfunding, a chronic teacher recruitment and retention crisis and curriculum and assessment chaos.
- The Conservative Government’s promise to maintain school funding per pupil in cash- terms but not in real-terms during this Parliament will lead to real-terms cuts in schools. The impact of inflation, and extra costs such as higher employer NI and pension contributions, means that the actual value of funding per pupil in real-terms will fall by as much as eight per cent or more.
- These funding problems will be hugely increased for many schools by the Government’s plans to introduce a National Funding Formula (NFF).
- The NFF will redistribute funding around the country but due to the Government’s real-terms cuts every part of England will lose out. The removal of local decision making on the allocation of funding, in favour of tighter control of funding from Whitehall, will adversely impact accountability, transparency and local democratic control of education funding.
- Yet the Government is now announcing a costly and unnecessary reorganisation of England’s school system to bring about the expansion of selective education.
- The current proposals involve a ring-fenced £50 million pot in 2018-19 for existing grammar schools to expand. This money could be better spent on helping to redress funding shortfalls across the whole school system.
- The expansion of existing grammar schools is already having a negative effect on neighbouring schools in some areas. In Gloucestershire for example, the decision of two grammar schools to expand their intake by 25 per cent is likely to mean local comprehensives will lose a substantial proportion of their revenue due to reduced pupil numbers.1
- Teacher recruitment will also become a bigger problem for the majority of schools that are not selective: most non-grammar schools will find it even harder to recruit than they do currently. This could result in reduced curriculum offers to pupils in non-selective schools, threatening the education progress that has been made in recent years.
- These are the wrong priorities for education.
1 Louise Tickle (13 April 2015), ‘“Predatory” grammar schools and local comprehensives in battle for survival’, Guardian.