Nicky Morgan and Lucy Powell clash over grammar school expansion controversy

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
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EDUCATION SECRETARY Nicky Morgan has rejected claims that she has approved the opening of the first new grammar school for 50 years, during a heated Commons debate.

She told MPs that it would have been perverse to block the proposed expansion of the Weald of Kent School simply because it was a selective school.

Mrs Morgan said she approved the Tonbridge school’s plan to expand to a new site, in Sevenoaks, in line with the Government’s policy of allowing good and outstanding schools to grow in response to parental demand.

However Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell said Mrs Morgan had allowed the creation of a new grammar school - which is prohibited by Government legislation introduced by Labour. Ms Powell said: “This decision to allow a so-called annex - 10 miles away from an existing school in a different town - is what everyone knows it to be: a new school.

“It will be the first new grammar school to open in more than 50 years.” She also criticised grammar schools for their record. She said: “The truth about selective grammar schools is that far from being the bastions of social mobility that some romanticise about, they have entrenched social advantage.

“Today’s grammar schools cannot deny that selection criteria favour the privately tutored and those with the means to acquire that tuition.” She said the Department for Education had faced a legal wrangle over the issue for the past 18 months and called on Mrs Morgan to publish the legal advice she had received.

The Education Secretary dismissed the suggestion that there had been a legal wrangle over the decision and said the Government did not publish legal advice given to ministers.

Mrs Morgan said: “Talk about being greeted by the usual Labour Party doom and gloom about our education system and the achievements of our pupils, the hard work of professional teachers up and down the country. The usual paucity of ideas from you and your colleagues.”

She said: “This is about expanding a school. There have been no legal wrangles.”

She added: “I have looked in detail at the application made by the Weald of Kent to make sure the legal criterion are absolutely satisfied.” She also dismissed claims that the decision would “open the floodgates” for more grammar schools to expand on new sites.