Justine Greening should ignore the bigots and give working people the grammar schools they want

Simon Heffer
The Education Secretary wants to prioritise lower-income students in new grammar schools. Quite right - Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, was absolutely right to say that new grammar schools should concentrate on recruiting children from poorer families. That was their historic purpose, as with the excellent one I attended, one of King Edward VI’s many foundations from the 1550s.

Grammar schools survived in affluent parts of England because the Conservative councils that affluent people tend to elect preserved them. This was hard on children in poorer areas, whose parents elected Labour councils that brought us that ornament of our culture, the sink comprehensive school.

Miss Greening should identify the 10 most deprived and educationally under-achieving authorities – they will often be the same places – and open schools there as soon as practicable. They should select rigorously, using intuitive reasoning tests for which no coaching (even if the parents could afford it) can prepare a child, and ensure they offer admission for bright late developers at 14 and 16.

Despite many working-class people wanting these schools for their children, middle-class Leftists tell them they won’t work, and won’t improve social mobility – even though existing ones do. Miss Greening should excel at the task of proving the bigots wrong.

 

Council fat cats eating up our money

Having heard that over 500 council employees earn more than the Prime Minister – one, Sunderland chief executive Dave Smith, trousered £625,570 last year for discharging his geopolitical responsibilities on Wearside – it was depressing to read a report by the Association of Play Industries that local authorities closed 214 children’s playgrounds between 2014 and 2016, and plan to close another 234.

Young families play in the playground at Bachelor's Acre in Windsor, Berkshire, UK Credit: Matthew Ashmore/Alamy

This comes when there is supposed to be a national initiative to combat child obesity. It looks as though we shall have plenty more fat children, matching the bureaucrats getting fat on public money.

The API has asked the Government to support its appeal to the Big Lottery Fund to resume funding such playgrounds. But Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, should also seek to bring these grotesque salaries under control and free up money. If Mrs May can cope on £150,000 a year, so can council chiefs.

 

We must not fail like this again

Last week was an undistinguished one for British diplomacy, with our country reduced to ineptitude in the G7 and then being rebuked by Russia, a gangster state that now speaks to the world largely in lies.

Matters were redeemed by the robust way our man at the UN, Mark Rycroft, confronted his Russian counterpart in the Security Council. But as I wrote last week, we seem to be making our foreign policy up as we go along.

Sadly, the Prime Minister took a short holiday at this difficult time: I trust she will get a grip now she is back, because matters are dangerous.

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