Chris Philp: Why I’m working for a Croydon grammar school

Chris Philp wants Croydon to be able to offer a traditional grammar school education for future generations. It never did him any harm...

Chris Philp wants Croydon to be able to offer a traditional grammar school education for future generations. It never did him any harm…

Chris PhilpCROYDON COMMENTARY: Croydon South’s Conservative MP, CHRIS PHILP, pictured left, makes his case for backing the establishment of the first grammar school in the borough for nearly half a century

Croydon parents wanting a grammar school education for their sons or daughters have to send their children to a neighbouring borough. But we recently saw news that the Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge has been given permission to expand on to a satellite (or annex) site in Sevenoaks. This has opened up the possibility that one of the grammar schools in Bromley or Sutton might open up a similar satellite school here.

At a recent Croydon Council meeting at the Town Hall, Labour’s cabinet member for education, Alisa Flemming, claimed that enough new secondary schools are being created to cater for demand until 2020, thus making the possibility of any grammar annexes being built redundant for the next four years. However, recent reports have suggested that the council’s school expansion plans are already behind track, and population growth is in any case accelerating.

Furthermore, the demand from parents for grammar school places is extremely high and far outstrips supply – for example, Sutton’s grammar schools have 10 applicants for every available place; 30 per cent of these schools’ pupils come from Croydon. With the population going up and housing developments such as Cane Hill being built, demand is only going to increase. The presence of a new grammar school in Croydon would help satisfy this demand and avoid pupils as young as 11 having to travel into other boroughs to get the education their parents want for them.

Personally, I have long believed in having a number of grammar schools. There is a simple reason. In 1987, when I was 11, I was offered a place at Trinity School in Shirley. But even with a partial scholarship, my parents couldn’t afford the fees. So I went to St Olave’s Grammar school in next door Bromley. Without St Olave’s, I probably wouldn’t have made it to Oxford, set up several businesses or become the MP for our area.

Jonathan Wilden: grammar head teacher working to establish new schools in Croydon

Jonathan Wilden: grammar head teacher working to establish new schools in Croydon

I believe that grammar schools offer children from ordinary backgrounds like mine the opportunity to fulfill their potential. They offer a unique, specialist ultra-academic education. This in no way takes away from the excellent work which free schools and academies are already doing in raising standards in Croydon and across the country. Grammar schools are a complement to other types of school – they just have a particular specialism like many schools do.

Recent polling by YouGov found that nationally 53 per cent of the public agree. My own residents’ survey earlier this year found overwhelming public support for a grammar school in Croydon.

I am not advocating a return to the old grammar school and secondary modern system. We have moved beyond that. But I do think that Croydon deserves a grammar school. Bromley and Sutton have them. We should too, and I hope that Labour councillors will get behind the plan.

Wallington County Grammar has already been given permission to open a comprehensive free school in Croydon. While discussing this school with Croydon residents, the WCGS headmaster Jonathan Wilden found a strong desire for grammar school in Croydon. The problem of school places in the borough is a substantial one, and has plagued residents for years.

To this end, I am working with Jonathan to open a satellite grammar school in Croydon. The council has already identified eight potential secondary sites around the borough, including one off the Purley Way in Waddon and one in Coulsdon.

The Government has clearly shown willingness to provide more selective education through the introduction of the satellite school in Kent and I hope they will see the need for a similar solution in Croydon.

Last week, I discussed this matter with the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, to see how we can move this forwards. This is a long-term plan with a complicated process. But I believe it is important for our children’s future and I will pursue it vigorously.

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2 Responses to Chris Philp: Why I’m working for a Croydon grammar school

  1. brogdale says:

    Mr Philp makes a number of ill-informed, misleading and politically blinkered arguments in support of his ludicrous proposition to re-introduce academically selective education into Croydon.

    Much evidence exists to demonstrate that Grammar schools produce the very opposite of the ‘social mobility’ that he claims for the ’11 plus’ system. Selection at age 10 favours the children of those families with enough income to pay for private tutoring dedicated to training for the entrance examinations. This process is very evident in the LB Sutton, which retains a selective system, and produces Grammar schools with hugely skewed cohorts of pupils displaying exceptionally low numbers of those coming from economically/socially disadvantaged backgrounds. All of the benchmark data, be that numbers in receipt of pupil premium, free school dinners or statemented demonstrate the inequality and exclusivity rendered by such an educational system.

    It is also the case that Grammar schools, such as those in Sutton, operate with no catchment area or commitment to serve the children of the ratepayers responsible for their funding. These ‘super-selectives’ engineer their high levels of examination attainment by drawing on pupils from the wider region, offering well over half of their places to children resident outside of the borough. If Mr Philp were correct in his analysis that Croydon’s school building programme will fall behind the growth of the pupil population, a ‘satellite’ of one of these ‘super-selectives’ would be the last sort of school to address any predicted shortfall. Indeed, Mr Wilden’s school publicly states that it has no catchment area whatsoever.

    Setting aside these obvious weaknesses in Mr Philp’s “case” for bringing academically selective schooling back to Croydon, there is one very practical reason why this is a very poor idea; it would be unlawful! The ‘School Standards and Framework Act (1998)’ legislated that no new selective schools will be permitted, and Mr Philp’s colleague, the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, has confirmed that the act will remain on the statute unaltered. The ‘Weald of Kent’/Sevenoaks “annex” precedent offered is a very misleading one; Morgan agreed to that expansion within one Local Authority that already uses the ’11 plus’ system, which is a very different context to that suggested. It is also significant that ‘The Sunday Times’ has reported that Mrs Morgan was advised by her department’s own lawyers that the Sevenoaks decision was unlikely to survive a legal challenge; Morgan has resisted calls to make public that legal advice…I wonder why?

    Rather than playing party politics with his own ideological ‘hobby horse’, Mr Philp could more usefully address the needs of Croydon schoolchildren by working with the council to provide sufficient, quality school places for local children.

  2. Jamie Baker says:

    I’m with Philp on this one.
    ‘Selective systems’ exist in most areas of life – your job, home, partner, club, etc. It can’t always be unfair

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