Grammar schools have been a divisive issue for decades. It is a topic that has long divided the Conservative Party. However, there is a new separation. This separation on the policy comes from within the Conservative Party, with two key figure heads: Justine Greening the current Education Secretary (for Grammar Schools) and the former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan (against Grammar Schools).
On Thursday, Justine Greening was probed by the BBC on the issue. She maintained that new Grammar Schools would be far more inclusive than current schools. However, Morgan has previously stated that experts repeatedly contend that Grammar Schools hinder social mobility. Here we can clearly see two camps emerging. It is a bridge that divides the Cameron and May premierships.
Added to this is the strong external pressure brought by a combination of the Labour Party and the media. Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Angela Rayner, wasted no time responding to Greening's comments. She reiterated that the evidence suggests that Grammar Schools do not help social mobility. The policy has been attacked in a number of mainstream media outlets such as The Guardian.
The Education Secretary is now in a dangerous position. The battle for the media on this issue has been lost. Her focus now has to be on public opinion. A loss in this area could force the most humiliating U-turn of May’s premiership so far.
One question does remain. Should the pressure be enough to turn public opinion against the policy, who in the government would take the blame? Theresa May has been very vocal in her support of the plans for Grammar Schools. On the other hand, we have already seen that the Prime Minister is more than willing to sacrifice her allies to preserve her reputation; just ask Chancellor Hammond after the NICs climb-down. One thing is for sure: the Education Secretary has got to be wary of the pressure building, or she may end up on the backbenches alongside Nicky Morgan.
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