New selective schools are ‘the last thing we want to see in Sheffield’, the city council has said as battle lines are drawn against proposals to bring back grammars.
The Government is inviting consultation responses on a package of reforms allowing new grammars to open, and existing non-selective schools to convert ‘in some circumstances’.
However, Coun Jackie Drayton, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for children, young people and families, said reviving grammars was a ‘backward step’.
“There is good reason the grammar school system was abolished 50 years ago and at a time when we have been making progress with results in Sheffield, this is the last thing we want,” said Coun Drayton.
Sheffield MPs and teaching unions have also criticised the proposals. Toby Mallinson, joint division secretary for National Union of Teachers in Sheffield, said grammars had ‘no place in the 21st century’.
“Parents who can afford to pay for tuition for their children will get them places above bright kids from less affluent backgrounds,” he said.
“It will forever label non-grammar schools and the students who attend them as second-class with the life-long impact on those students.
“We need a world-class, well-funded comprehensive schools system with pupils taught by well-qualified teachers.”
Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May said new grammars would tackle ‘selection by house price’, where more affluent parents buy properties in high-achieving schools’ catchment areas.
But Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, said wealthier families would ‘still win out’ if the ban on opening new grammars, created in 1998, was scrapped.
“In today’s world we know that anxious parents will be under pressure to pay for extra tutoring in advance of tests. I’ll fight it all the way.”
Gill Furniss, Labour MP for Brightside and Hillsborough, said: “The Tories’ plan for a raft of new grammar schools will do nothing to help the thousands of children across Sheffield who deserve the best start in life.
“Through the hard work of students, teachers and parents, pupil achievement across Sheffield has gone up over the last few years.
“There is still a lot of work to be done, but as a city our aim has always been for every child to be able fulfil their potential.”
Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield South East, said he was ‘completely opposed’, adding: “Children will be written off at 11 and it will make life even harder for poor communities.”
And Coun Steve Ayris, Sheffield’s Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said he was ‘really disappointed’ by the return of the ‘divisive policy’.
One of Sheffield’s proposed new academies, on the site of the former Banner-
dale centre, lies within the catchment area for many of Sheffield’s top schools.
The organisation picked to run the school, Silverdale Multi Academy Trust, declined to comment on whether it would seek selective status.
Coun Drayton said she thought the educational system was becoming ‘more elitist’, adding: “This flies in the face of the needs of our local economy, where employers need both vocational and academic qualifications.”