I have long believed in Grammar Schools. There is a simple reason. In 1987, when I was 11, I was offered a place at Trinity 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 Bromley. Without St Olave’s, I probably wouldn’t have got to Oxford, set up several businesses or become an MP.
I believe that Grammar Schools offer children from ordinary backgrounds 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 UK. 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% 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 to the east and west have then. We should too.
Wallington County Grammar has already been given permission to open a comprehensive free school in Croydon. While discussing this new free school with Croydon residents, 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.
I am therefore working with the head teacher of Wallington County Grammar School (WCGS) to open a satellite school in Croydon. The council has already identified several potential secondary school sites around the Borough, including one off the Purley Way in Waddon and one in Coulsdon. There are other possible sites too.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan recently approved the building of a satellite school of the Weald of Kent girls’ grammar school in Tonbridge. The Government has clearly shown willingness to provide more selective education through the introduction of this satellite and I hope they will see the need for a similar solution in Croydon.
I have written to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to see how we can move this forward. 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.