Prime Minister announces controversial school reform plans – Friday 9 September 2016

The new academic year starts controversially as I report on the Prime Minister’s plans to allow new grammar schools to open and state schools to select pupils by academic ability, the launch of the Government’s new plans to reduce childhood obesity and the publication of the updated version of the statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education.

Prime Minister’s school reform plans
This morning the Prime Minister announced more education reforms, including plans to scrap the rule which prevents new grammar schools from opening, which was introduced by Labour in 1998. A summary of the main proposals is provided below:

  • Existing grammar schools in England to be allowed to expand, backed by £50m of new funding
  • All state schools in England to be allowed to select pupils by academic ability “in the right circumstances” and where there is demand
  • All selective schools will have to meet access conditions, such as taking a share of pupils from low-income backgrounds, setting up a new non-selective secondary or primary school or backing an underperforming academy
  • New grammars will be able to take pupils at 14 and 16, as well as 11, or take on students from non-selective schools for certain subjects
  • Universities will be expected to sponsor a state school or set up a new free school as part of an overhaul of fair access requirements
  • Catholic schools which are oversubscribed and want to expand will be able to choose 100% of new pupils on faith grounds, not 50% as now
  • All independent schools will have to support state schools in some way, in return for maintaining their charitable status.
  • Fee-paying schools will have to sponsor or set up a new free school or subsidise places for pupils from more modest backgrounds

A consultation will be held on ways to make new selective schools and expanding grammars more inclusive so that places are not limited to families who can “pay for tuition to pass the test”.

Currently there are no grammar schools in the North East and the Prime Minister told Conservative MPs on Wednesday night that the expansion would not be forced on areas that did not want them.

Launch of Government plan to reduce childhood obesity
In August the Government published its plan for action to significantly reduce childhood obesity by supporting healthier choices. The plan looks at how schools can support this in helping children to enjoy an hour of physical activity every day, improving the co-ordination of quality sport and physical activity programmes for schools, creating a new healthy rating scheme for primary schools and making school food healthier.

Keeping Children Safe in Education 2016
An updated version of the statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education was published on Monday this week. The document contains information on what schools and colleges should do and sets out the legal duties with which schools and colleges must comply in order to keep children safe.