Nick Gibb avoids giving stance on new grammar schools

The teaching profession has never been ‘more vibrant and alive’ says the schools minister, who was met with groans from the audience over claims teacher numbers are the highest ever

Schools minister Nick Gibb has refused to say whether he wants new grammar schools to open following the relaunch of a campaign to overturn the law banning them.

Mr Gibb avoided giving his stance on the controversial topic during a question and answer session with thousands of teachers this afternoon in Leeds.

In the week that more than 100 Tory MPs have called for the law banning new grammar schools from opening to be repealed, Mr Gibb was giving little away when asked his view on the matter.

He said: “My view is that those [163 grammar schools in this country] are very good, the law is very clear, and we want to encourage good schools to expand.”

His cagey response comes on the same day that campaigners against grammar schools in Buckinghamshire wrote to education secretary Justine Greening saying selection at age 10 ‘damages the educational chances of the majority of children’.

The letter, from the Local, Equal Excellent group, said that children from poor backgrounds did “disproportionately badly” under the 11+ exam.

Earlier this month, Justine Greening, who is the first education secretary to attend a comprehensive school, said she was “open minded” to a return to grammar schools.

This prompted the head of Teach First, Brett Wigdortz, to call on ministers not to become distracted by grammar schools and instead to focus on tackling educational inequality.

Mr Gibb used his speech at the Teach First Impact Conference, where TES is the media partner, to say he’s never seen a time when the education sector has been “more vibrant and alive”.

But when challenged on the teacher shortage, the MP received groans from the audience when he said “there are more teachers in our profession today than at any time”.

Members of the audience laughed when he added that Britain had a “strong economy”. But Mr Gibb acknowledged that there were “serious challenges” in some parts of the country and subjects.

During his speech, he said: “Having been involved in education since I became a shadow minister in 2005 I have never seen a time when the sector has been more vibrant and alive with new ideas as it is today.”

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