Bishop’s warning to government over its grammars proposal

Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust.Hathors relaunch and 110th anniversary celebrations at How Hil

Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust.Hathors relaunch and 110th anniversary celebrations at How Hill.The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

The Bishop of Norwich has warned every child must attend an excellent school amid government proposals to allow new grammar schools to open.

The Rt Rev Graham James spoke of his own experience of a grammar school education, praising 'bright, interesting and knowledgeable' masters, but said most would not have survived teaching in the old secondary moderns.

Theresa May announced plans to launch new grammar schools in September, shortly after becoming prime minister – but insisted it was not about 'going back to the system of binary education from the 1950s'.

A consultation on how to identify the children from poorer families who could benefit most from the plans is currently being held.

Speaking in a House of Lords debate, Bishop Graham said: 'I fully understand why grammar schools are thought to be the engines of social mobility for some, even if it is contested territory, but I never hear anyone saying, 'Bring back secondary moderns'. We can relabel them as high schools, or give them some other title, but they remain schools where around a quarter of the pupils, and the most able in any area, are missing.'

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He said the challenge for the government, if it was to take forward its plans for more grammar schools, was to ensure that no one was 'educationally disadvantaged'.

'I remember only too well the shaming threats at my primary school about the prospect of wearing the green blazer, which was the secondary modern uniform.

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'We were threatened that if we did not work hard, that is what would happen to us.

He also spoke of a 'weariness' among the teaching profession about the constant reshaping and fiddling within our educational framework, calling for a more settled period in education.

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