Lifting the ban on grammars would be a ‘disaster’, says social mobility tsar

The government’s social mobility tsar has criticised expected plans to lift the ban on opening new grammar schools, warning it would be a ‘disaster’ for education in England.

Speaking to the Guardian, Alan Milburn, the former Labour cabinet minister who chairs the government’s social mobility commission, has said that grammars lead to social selection and warned that in England’s current 163 selective state schools pupils were four or five times more likely to come from independent prep schools than from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

He said: “This is not selection educationally, it is selection socially. If [more of] that is what is being talked about, it will not provide a social mobility dividend, it will be a social mobility disaster.”

Instead of the proposed plans to bring selection back into England’s education system, Milburn recommended a series of policies that would be more effective for improving social mobility. These included: a significant pay premium and discounted housing for teachers who move to disadvantaged areas and remain there for a number of years; a Ucas-style system to shake up the vocational education system, which Milburn said was in ‘chaos’; and intervening to improve parenting skills, which he described as the ‘last taboo in public policy’, by funding a drive through successful websites such as Mumsnet or others.

Prime Minister Theres May is expected to official announce her intentions to lift the ban on grammar schools today in London.

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