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Education in the media: 8 September 2016

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Attainment gap, Fostering


Today’s news review looks at coverage of grammar schools, a study about private tutoring and the role of private fostering agencies.

Grammar schools

There has been widespread coverage today, 8 September, about whether grammar schools could be reintroduced.

An article on the front page of the Telegraph looked at whether grammar schools could ‘end selection by house price’, where high house prices around good schools preclude disadvantaged pupils from going there. Meanwhile the Guardian led on comment by Alan Milburn, who chairs the Government’s social mobility commission, saying that a grammar school expansion would risk ‘disaster’. These two angles are the main points of debate in the wider coverage which has included pieces on broadcast media, and various stories on the websites of national newspapers.

It is important to note that no policy announcement has been made at this stage.

The Prime Minister has been clear that we need to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

We are looking at a range of options to allow more children to access a school that lets them rise as far as their talents will take them.

Policies on education will be set out in due course.

The Secretary of State spoke in the House of Commons this morning in response to the suggestion that the Government is planning to reintroduce grammar schools. She pointed out that:

  • Young people should be given the opportunity to have better teaching and this is what the government wants for all children. She already made clear in July that she is open minded to academic selection as we can’t rule anything out that would help children.
  • The landscape has changed. There will be no binary system that separates into winners and losers. We want a 21st century system that caters for talent. We need a diverse range of schools, more good schools, and we will look at a range of options and proposals.
  • We want more good schools in the areas where they are needed. Despite our improvements there are still too many places where children can’t get to a good school.
  • We want to look at ways to improve attainment and leave no stone unturned. To complain about one aspect and then say we shouldn’t have a debate is untenable.
  • Too often we have selection on the grounds of house prices. We need to challenge ourselves to improve that.

Private tutors

Today, 8 September, the Sutton Trust published its report into private tutoring. It says a quarter of state school pupils have had private tutoring and about 43% of state school teachers have offered private tutoring outside of their main work.  It says the rise in private tutoring is fuelling the attainment gap between those whose parents can afford it and those who can’t.

The report has been covered in the Guardian, via an opinion piece from the Chairman of the Sutton Trust, Peter Lampl, in the Telegraph, and in trade publications TES and Schools Week. Most of the coverage simply focuses on the effect private tutors could be having on the attainment gap.

The report makes a recommendation that money from the pupil premium should be used to pay for private tutoring – which, as we’ve always been clear, schools are already free to do. It is down to individual schools to decide on how they spend their pupil premium.

It’s important to note that that the attainment gap at key stage 4 has narrowed by 6.6% since 2011, the year the pupil premium was introduced, and by 7.1% at key stage 2.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

The Pupil Premium, worth £2.5billion this year, is providing vital support to disadvantaged children. That investment is paying off with those pupils catching up with their peers at primary and secondary, and thousands more children now leaving primary school having mastered the basics of reading, writing and maths than in 2009.


Schools are best placed to decide how to use this additional funding to meet the needs of their pupils, taking into account evidence of what works.


Today, the Local Government Association (LGA) published a report on the role of private fostering agencies.

It calls for a ban on so-called ‘golden hellos’ from fostering agencies as the LGA fears this allows the agencies to recruit fully trained foster parents from local authorities. The LGA also raises concerns that a small number of fostering agencies are making large profits.

The story was covered by the Telegraph in print but has so far received limited coverage online.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Following the recommendation made in the independent review by Sir Martin Narey, we are launching a national stocktake of fostering to better understand current provision - including looking at the role fostering agencies play.


Alongside this we have supported the testing of new and innovative models of foster care through the £200 million Children's Social Care Innovation Programme, including better ways to support foster carers.

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