Along with Teach First, King’s College London and others, Oxford University has warned that the government’s grammar school plans would abandon many secondary school students to a “second rate” education.
The announcement comes just days after the release of Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to create new grammar schools while allowing comprehensive schools to apply for a permit to begin merit-based admission. Under current law, it is impossible to create new grammar schools, but May claims reversing this would improve social mobility and help the “hidden” hardworking families that were “just getting by”.
The Fair Education Alliance, made up of 70 education advocacy groups and universities including Oxford, has called on the public to sign a petition against May’s plan.
“This is the right ambition, but the wrong policy”, the group said in an online statement. “We share the government’s ambition and passion for social mobility but experts are unanimous that an expansion of grammar schools would lead to worse outcomes for the majority of children, especially the poorest.
“Grammar schools select only a tiny proportion of children for the best education, leaving others with a second-rate choice”, it continued. “Even with quotas, poorer children will have a harder job of getting into these schools. And for the overwhelming majority of children who don’t get in, the evidence is clear that they get worse grades and a worse education.”
May defended her policy in a public statement on Friday.
“It is not a proposal to go back to the 1950s, but to look to the future, and that future I believe is an exciting one…It is a future in which every child should have access to a good school place”, the PM said. “And a future in which Britain’s education system shifts decisively to support ordinary working-class families.”
Grammar school students do not account for a massive percentage of students at Oxford. Only 89 of the 1,404 UK acceptances to Oxford University from state schools came from grammar schools in 2015, according to Oxford University Press Office.