Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Theresa May clearly wants to pick a fight on grammars

The most interesting thing about the accidentally-revealed grammar schools briefing document is not so much that the government is planning to press ahead with the change to the schools system, but that it is considering passing a new law in order to do it. A brave move for a government with such a small majority. This means Justine Greening and her junior ministers in the Education dept are in for a rocky few months, something the memo itself acknowledged. It said:

‘I simply don’t know what the PM thinks of this, but it sounds reasonable to me, and I simply can’t see any way of persuading the Lords to vote for selection on any other basis.’

A chunk of Tory MPs are uncomfortable about the plans and will need much persuading too, though Theresa May does benefit from a general desire to give her as easy a time as possible, save for the rather grumpy Cameroons who are skulking on the backbenches. And that is, as the memo says, before the proposal moves to the Lords.

As I said in the magazine recently, grammars seem to be an iconic battle that Theresa May is picking in order to show that she is not the same as her predecessor. If that is the case, it may be that she is very open to significant changes to the legislation and therefore the format of new selective state schools in order to win the iconic battle, even if it means introducing a very different policy in the end.

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