Education Secretary Michael Gove today rejected demands by Conservative MPs to allow the creation of more grammar schools, insisting they were not a “magic bullet” to solve the problems of the education system.
Since the party's drubbing in the local elections earlier this month, Tory MPs having been pressing ministers to allow a return to a system of selective education in England as part of a distinctive Conservative policy agenda.
The chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, said it was "perverse" of the Government not to permit more grammar schools at a time when it was promoting diversity of provision across the education system.
However Mr Gove, who has spoken out strongly against the domination of public life by the privately-educated, denied that the decline in the grammar school system in the 1960s and 1970s was responsible for a decline in social mobility.
"Selection isn't a magic bullet. If you look across the world at those countries that have successful education systems, yes, some of them are selective, like Singapore. Others, Finland, South Korea, Japan, aren't," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.
"So it's not the case that you need to have selection in order to have a successful education system which advances social mobility."
Mr Gove suggested that the decline in social mobility had more to do with other factors, such as the adoption of "progressive" teaching methods in state schools.
"In fact there were other changes occurring in education - a move away from traditional subjects rigorously taught in many cases," he said.
"It would be wrong to look back at the sixties and seventies and say that the move away from grammar schools was the sole cause of adverse changes."
However, Mr Brady said there was a strong feeling among Tory MPs that the Government should act to free up the system.
"It is perverse to do as we are doing at the moment, denying one type of education which everybody, including Michael Gove, accepts is a very good kind of education," he told The World at One.
"We accept that grammar schools are a very good thing where they exist, we accept that if you are in another area and you can afford to pay then you can go to an independent school that is academically selective, but if you can't afford to pay and you live in an area that doesn't have state grammar schools then you are expected to go to a comprehensive school.
"It is a very odd situation to maintain."
"There are many, many Conservative MPs - and others - who would like to see genuine freedom, and that that should include the ability to select either wholly or in part."
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