Michael Gove leaves door open for expansion of grammar schools

Education Secretary said he would be prepared to back future applications to expand selective schools

Education Secretary Michael Gove left the door ajar for an expansion of grammar schools on Wednesday.

In his first public comment since plans for a “satellite” grammar school in Sevenoaks, Kent, were rejected by his civil servants, he said he would be prepared to back future applications to expand selective schools.

“Should a future application come forward that is consistent with the law, then of course I would of course approve it for a grammar school as with any other school that’s good and wishes to expand,” he told members of the Commons select committee on education.

The issue with the “satellite” plans - put forward by two existing grammar schools in Maidstone to set up a new satellite in Sevenoaks was that officials ruled they were not expansion plans - but constituted a new school. It is illegal to open a new selective state school under present legislation.

Both applications came from single sex schools - whereas the Sevenoaks site was to have been co-educational.

Mr Gove was answering questions sent in by the public for a special session of the select committee.

Asked if he agreed with comments by chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw over the weekend that grammar schools were “stuffed” with middle class pupils and no answer to social mobility, he said he had the same response to both Sir Michael and grammar schools.

“In the words of the Billy Joel song ‘don’t go changing just to please me - I love you just the way you are’,” he added.

“I love Sir Michael just the way he is and I love grammar schools the way they are.”

In a wide-ranging question and answer session, he also firmly closed the door on any suggestion that private companies or sponsors would ever be able to run state schools for profit.

Asked by Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh whether he could ever envisage taxpayer funded schools ever being run for profit, he replied simply: “No.”

Earlier this year The Independent reported that he had told friends he had no objections to “for profit” firms setting up free schools paid for by the state but independent of local authority control.

Bright Blue, a modernising pressure group within the Conservative party, was campaigning for this to be included in the next Conservative election manifesto.
On the question of free schools, Mr Gove revealed he had turned down “hundreds” of applications to set one up.  At present, there are 174 operating in England.

He added: “When you’re setting up 174 schools not all of them are going to be magnificent.” He acknowledged there were “at least three” - the Discovery New School in Crawley, West Sussex, whose closure was announced by his department last week, the Al Madinah Muslim free school in Derby, where the trustees were persuaded to stand down and be replaced by new sponsors, and the Kings Science Academy in Bradford where there had been allegations of financial irregularities  - where problems had occurred.

Meanwhile, the Government announced an extra £2.35 billion worth of capital funding to provide new school places over the next three years.  Experts have predicted an extra half a million places will be needed by 2017 because of a bulge in the birth rate.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: MIS Officer - Further Education Sector

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect