I was pleased to see week-end press coverage that the government is considering allowing the expansion of existing grammar schools and the establishment of new ones where local communities would like this to happen. I strongly support this policy and urge you to develop plans as soon as possible.
In Berkshire children from my constituency and from other neighbouring constituencies can apply for places at the two Reading grammar schools, and frequently do. There are no grammars in Wokingham Borough , nor in the West Berkshire Council area. My constituency contains parts of both of these Unitary Council areas. High achieving students at local comprehensives obtain places at top universities, as well as pupils from the grammars doing so, so it is not right to argue the presence of the grammars undermines the local comprehensives academically.
The grammar schools are massively oversubscribed and are popular schools. The academically gifted child does benefit from the specialist grammar teaching selection allows, just as specialist sporting, dance and music academies can bring out the best in the most enthusiastic and talented youngsters in those disciplines. Nationally I read that children of better off families have more success at getting grammar places. This in part reflects the location of current grammars, with a concentration in higher income areas like Buckinghamshire, parts of Berkshire and Kent. It would be good to spread their reach more widely.
I do not accept grammars create an insuperable divide at 11. We need a system which allows those late developers who wish to go to a grammar for a more specialist academic education to have opportunity after 11, and we need to ensure high fliers academically can also be well served by local comprehensives, as many are in my area. As sport, dance , art and music demonstrate, specialist concentrated teaching and learning helps achieve excellence, as it can academic success. The bigger divide currently is between those whose parents can afford to send them to a top performing feee paying school and the rest. More grammars will help bridge this academic gap.
I was disappointed to read of delay in implementing the Conservative policy of fairer funding for secondary schools in areas like mine, and hope you will revisit this and reach a timely introduction, in line with our Manifesto promises.