Focus on inequality not grammar schools, Teach First tells ministers

The government would be wrong to prioritise the opening of grammar schools because they ‘only affect a small number of children and are often not in the area of greatest need’, argues charity boss

The head of Teach First has warned the government not to become distracted by grammar schools and urged ministers instead to focus on tackling educational inequality.

Brett Wigdortz, chief executive of Teach First, pictured, said prime minister Theresa May’s new Cabinet should make the needs of the country’s most disadvantaged pupils one of its chief priorities.

Mr Wigdortz also said that it was his organisation’s duty to focus on those areas that voted for Brexit, as they were the parts of the country that felt most “left behind”.

He was commenting after education secretary Justine Greening said earlier this month that she was keeping an open mind about grammar schools.

Too many children ‘left behind’

Speaking at the charity’s annual conference in Leeds, Mr Wigdortz said tackling educational inequity should be at the centre of the government’s new agenda to “build a better Britain”, not the reintroduction of grammar schools.

“Too many children in too many areas are being left behind without the education they deserve,” he said. “Addressing their needs should be our nation’s priority and the priority of the new education secretary, Justine Greening, not the issue of grammar schools.

Grammar schools only affect a small number of children and are often not in the area of greatest need.”

As part of the charity’s drive to combat educational inequality, Mr Wigdortz called on the organisation’s new recruits to “change the fabric of society” in areas with the poorest performing schools that voted “overwhelmingly” to leave the EU.

Addressing more than 4,000 new Teach First participants, Mr Wigdortz said: “From what we have seen over the last month, one thing is clear to me: we must expand our efforts to tackle education inequity. This is becoming more and more important with everything going on in this country.

“Areas that had the lowest performing schools most overwhelmingly voted for Brexit a month ago. I think what that says to me is there are huge areas of the country that feel disenfranchised and left behind.

“These are areas where schools can make a massive impact… we can change the fabric of society in those areas. Make people feel not left behind but part of Britain’s future.

“I believe to tackle this requires a movement of leaders… The work you are doing has never, ever been more important in British history than I believe it is today.”

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