Grammar schools have, once again, wormed their way out of the woodworks thanks to Theresa May’s favouring of the school system. Unlike her predecessor, David Cameron, May and her team have been vocal that they favour the return of the grammar school.
But what really is a grammar school?
Grammar schools are state secondary schools where places are allocated for local children based on their ability to pass an examination paper. This paper is taken at 11 years old, known as the ’11 plus’ paper. Those who pass the paper receive a place at the local grammar school, whilst those who are not successful will go to the secondary modern school.
The relationship with the DUP
During the campaign election earlier this year, grammar schools became the forefront of education policy alongside the free school meals debate. The pros and cons of grammar schools could be a whole new post, but what this post is concerned about is the future progression of May’s beloved grammar schools. The general election result on the 9th June 2017 was unpredicted and has thrown many plans into the air. No party secured a majority in the House of Commons, making it increasingly difficult to swimmingly pass new legislation. The Tories still hold a minority Government but the difficulties will be felt. The party should remain cautious to the likelihood of David Cameron-ites rebelling against the party if grammar schools appear on the policy agenda after Parliamentary recess.
Nevertheless, the DUP (that party from Northern Ireland that many weren’t aware of) have agreed to support May’s minority Government. Even though they only have 10 seats in the Commons, this pushes the Tory’s majority over the edge. Unfortunately, a little spanner in the works known as devolution could make it difficult to secure a go-ahead for grammar schools. The powers of devolution revoke the power of our neighbours’ parties voting on educational reform if it will just affect English schools. Therefore, the DUP will be unable to vote with the Tories for grammar schools, should it reach that point, which seems like a win for those who disfavour grammar schools.
However, devolution will also take away the right to vote for other parties such as SNP and Plaid Cymru which brings the Tories back to a majority against Labour’s 262 seats. Although unlikely, May could potentially push through grammar schools based on this majority.
The House of Lords
The final reliance that can seal the coffin for grammar schools (for now) comes with the comfort that the bill would also have to pass through the House of Lords. The House of Lords contains some big sharks who do not favour grammar schools and have often rebelled against educational reform such as David Blunkett. The Lords, therefore, could technically block any educational reform after it passes in the Commons. May, could have one more wildcard up her sleeve should the bill reach this point – the Salisbury Convention. This convention states that the Lords must not block legislation in its third or fourth reading if it is a policy which was mentioned in the party manifesto. It would be very unlikely that any legislation on grammar schools would reach this point. Even if it did, May would have a hard time to push this through calmly.
Therefore, the possibility of grammar schools in future Tory education policy is unlikely to occur with key figures in the party such as Greening, the education secretary, stating that the ban on grammar schools will remain. For advocates in the party then, the battle of the policy through the Commons and the Lords seems like a lot of effort. Especially for May, who in simple terms, has bigger fish to fry in the next few years such as Brexit.