Liz Truss suggests she will lift ban on new grammar schools

Liz Truss did not deny that she was committed to 'lifting the ban on new grammar schools' when asked by ConservativeHome - Joe Giddens
Liz Truss did not deny that she was committed to 'lifting the ban on new grammar schools' when asked by ConservativeHome - Joe Giddens

Liz Truss has suggested she would reverse a ban on the establishment of new grammar schools.

In an interview with the Conservative Home website, the Foreign Secretary revealed she sends her two daughters to a selective school – and she said she wanted “people around the country” to have the same chance.

Labour imposed a ban on the establishment of new state grammar schools in 1998.

If she reverses this, it would prompt the biggest revolution in English education for half a century.

The reversal of the ban would go much further than her leadership rival Rishi Sunak, who said on Thursday night he would only go so far as supporting the expansion of existing grammar schools.

Ms Truss was asked by Conservative Home how she would implement her “commitment to lifting the ban on new grammar schools” – a statement the Foreign Secretary did not deny.

‘I’m a huge supporter of grammar schools’

She said: “I’m a huge supporter of grammar schools. I went to school not too far from here, at Roundhay School in Leeds which was a comprehensive.

“It was a former grammar school and it became a comprehensive school. My two daughters now attend a grammar school, and I want people around the country to have the choice that we have to be able to send our daughters to a grammar school.

“And I also want to see more free schools opened, so for example the Michaela School in Brent I think is a fantastic example of a school which completely counters the soft bigotry of low expectations and expects high standards of everybody.

“And for me, it’s about parents and children having the choice of that range of good schools. And the more good schools we have, the more choice people have.”

Asked how she was going to implement this policy before the next general election, Ms Truss said: “I will make the case to the country that this is the right thing to do, and I will encourage the Lords to support the will of the democratically elected House of Commons.”

Sunak: I believe in power of 'educational excellence'

At the first leadership hustings on Thursday night, Mr Sunak pledged to allow grammar schools to expand, saying he believed in the power of “educational excellence” to transform people’s lives.

Asked by host Nick Ferrari whether he would bring back grammar schools, the former Chancellor said: “Yes, as you heard from me earlier I believe in educational excellence. I believe education is the most powerful way to transform people's lives.

“But I also believe there's a lot we can do in the school system as it is. It's about reforming the system to get better grammars.”

Mr Sunak’s team later clarified that the comment was “about expanding existing grammar schools”.

Rishi Sunak - Peter Nicholls
Rishi Sunak - Peter Nicholls

Grammar schools were a key part of the postwar educational settlement, with children across the country taking the eleven-plus to decide whether they would be admitted or instead attend the local secondary modern.

But during the 1960s and 1970s, most areas of the country decided to go comprehensive, meaning children of different abilities all went to the same school.

In 1998, Labour ruled that no state grammar schools should be opened, and existing schools were banned from introducing new selection by ability.

It means that there are now only around 160 grammar schools in England. Ms Truss's pledge to return to selection could therefore presage a revolution in the English education system.

Earlier this month, Ms Truss was reported to have told the Tory backbench 1922 Committee that she would end the ban on grammar schools.

All hopefuls were asked about lifting the ban, something Sir Graham Brady, the committee chair, has long called for.

Theresa May, the former prime minister, pledged to remove the ban when she entered Downing Street in 2016 - but the plan was dropped a year later.