Calls to open a large number of grammar schools
Grammar schools should be widely re-introduced across Britain because they represent the best chance of securing a good education for all
Grammar schools should be brought back en masse to ensure that they do not become the “preserve of the middle classes”, the headteacher of a leading private school has said.
Responding to news that Britain’s first new grammar in 50 years is likely to be approved next month, Andrew Halls, the headmaster of King’s College School in southwest London, said he was “indifferent” about the idea of opening a small number of grammar schools.
He said he would support the opening of a large number of grammars, alongside well-resourced secondary schools and technical colleges, fulfilling the “vision” of the 1944 Education Act.
However, he admitted that the reintroduction of the original legislation –drafted by Conservative politician Rab Butler – was “never going to happen” due to the lack of political support.
Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, looks set to approve a new grammar school in the town of Sevenoaks, officially an “annexe” of the existing Weald of Kent school nine miles away.
Mr Halls told The Daily Telegraph: “The problem with grammar schools is that they have become so rare, which means that they are now very much the preserve of the middle classes.
“If you look at the statistics, the average grammar school has fewer than three per cent of candidates on free school meals.
“They are fantastic schools and I
would not wish them gone, but if they are going to come back, they ought to come back in vast numbers, not just in privileged boroughs.
“Grammar schools only make sense if you are also looking after less academic children well – that is what the Education Act was trying to create, although it is not what it created.” Mr Halls went to Shenley Court School, a Birmingham comprehensive, recently rebuilt as Shenley Academy.
His father was the headmaster of Saltley Grammar School, now Saltley School, which was recently embroiled in the “Trojan horse” affair, a plot to spread Islamist teaching in a number of state schools in the West Midlands.
Mr Halls spoke of the “working-class community” supported by his father’s school, which now finds it difficult to access similar institutions due to competition from middle-class parents, who inflate property prices and pay for costly tutoring.
King’s College School, which charges nearly £20,000 per year, was named The Sunday Times independent school of the year, with the judges praising its dedication to music, sport, drama and community service alongside academic work.
Mr Halls approved of Nicky Morgan’s plans to invest £3.5m in extracurricular activities as a “step in the right direction”, but noted that the money “would not go very far”.
He also lauded university technical colleges, which offer a skills-based curriculum, describing them as the best way of including vocational education in the UK schools system.