11th Dec, 2016

Solihull MP Julian Knight backs calls for new grammar school

Solihull Editorial 30th Nov, 2015 Updated: 21st Oct, 2016

SOLIHULL MP Julian Knight has joined forces with a former UKIP Parliamentary Candidate to call for new grammar schools to be built in the borough.

Mr Knight and defeated Solihull MP hopeful Phil Henrick, who stood in this year’s General Election, have penned a joint letter to cabinet member for education, skills and culture, Councillor Joe Tildesley, urging him to ‘look favourably’ on any future proposals for a grammar school in Solihull.

The letter follows Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s approval of a new annex to a grammar school in Kent, despite a 1998 law ruling no new grammar schools could be built.

Describing grammar schools as a ‘valuable tool for social mobility’, Mr Knight and Mr Henrick’s letter argued they provide students from disadvantaged backgrounds with the opportunity to access ‘award winning, high quality and successful education.’

Speaking to The Observer, Mr Henrick said he would like to see new grammar schools built in the north of the borough where he argued social mobility was at its lowest.

He added: “While comprehensive schools have a lot of merit, the children who are worse affected are those who are from lower social mobility backgrounds.

“Life is not a level playing field, but grammar schools educating real mix of people are the first steps towards a more level society.”

Historically, grammar schools have come under fire for not promoting social mobility – with middle-class parents hiring costly tutors to ensure their child pass the entrance exam.

But, Solihull MP Julian Knight argues it should be the parents’ choice whether to tutor their children and that the government should not stand in their way.

Echoing Mr Henrick’s calls, Mr Knight said: “It is important that we have a mix of educational facilities in Solihull.

“I think it is totally ridiculous that new grammar schools are banned, as they should be part of the full suite of educational opportunities available to parents and their children.

“What’s wrong with having schools which are a little more divergent?”

The MP said the letter signaled a rare collaboration between members from different political parties, but added this highlighted how important the issue was.

He added: “A new grammar school may not be right for other parts of the country, but would be right for us in Solihull.

“I am very happy with the schools provision in the borough, but I am giving an open message that education provision should be about parental choice.

“And while nothing is on the table yet, the joint letter pre-empts anything that may come in the future and will hopefully put the issue in the mind of the local portfolio holder.”

But, Coun Joe Tildesley said he did not see the introduction of a new grammar school in Solihull happening any time soon – arguing that it was not in the Conservative party’s manifesto and would require a change in the law.

He added: “Instead of one new grammar school, I want every school in the borough to be outstanding – every child in the borough receiving an outstanding education.

“There’s no need for grammar schools as long as we continue to provide a remarkable educations to the children of Solihull.”