CONCERNS have been raised that the debate around opening new grammar schools is a distraction from the ‘real problems’ schools are facing across East Lancashire.

Prime Minister Theresa May has signalled she may lift the ban on the opening of new grammar schools with education secretary Justine Greening saying the government would take a ‘pragmatic’ look at the schools. However the National Union of Teachers claims the proposals are a ‘regressive move’ and a distraction from the real problems facing schools and education.

Simon Jones, East Lancashire National Union of Teachers representative, said: “Teacher retention and recruitment is at dangerously low levels, assessment is in disarray and insufficient school funding is impacting on the quality and range of educational experiences teachers can offer.

“These are the issues that need addressing, not a return to an archaic idea that has been roundly rejected for decades.

“Grammar schools are nothing more than window dressing. It is time for Government to step back and take a long hard look at what is needed to ensure that all children are given the education they deserve.”

Richard Jones, headteacher of St Christopher’s CE High School in Accrington, said: “The current discussion around the expansion of grammar schools offers an unwelcome sideshow for school leaders and yet more uncertainty. Our overriding priority should be the welfare and achievement of pupils.”

“There is no convincing evidence to suggest that a return to selection will promote educational achievement, particularly for those from more disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Rather than becoming consumed in a debate about even more educationally and socially divisive changes to the structure of our school system, The Prime Minister should focus on tackling the deep educational inequalities which are the legacy of her predecessor.”

Research by the Sutton Trust shows less than three per cent of grammar schools entrants are entitled to free school meals.