Commenting on the Prime Minister’s education speech today, Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and Education Endowment Foundation said:
“I welcome the Prime Minister’s strong commitment to social mobility and the ambition of her agenda. She is absolutely right to want to address the educational needs of those on modest as well as low incomes, and we work with both groups through our programmes.
“The Prime Minister is also right to recognise that there is a serious issue about the education of highly able young people from low and middle income backgrounds. We welcome the expectation that grammar schools do more to attract disadvantaged pupils, building on proposals we made.
“Sutton Trust research has shown the existing grammar schools to be highly socially selective, mainly because of private tuition and prep schools for those who can afford them. The government should ensure that existing grammar schools get it right before opening more grammar schools.
“To address the attainment gap – at all levels – we need more focus in every school on what research shows works in improving standards of literacy and numeracy, addressing essential life skills and preparing young people to access higher education or apprenticeships. We also need much better data on attainment at all levels of family income. But above all, we need a focus on good teaching rather than structures.
“We also need a national drive to improve education for the highly able in comprehensives, backed by fairer admissions policies in urban comprehensive schools promoting ballots or banding to overcome selection by house price, backed by better advice to low income families on their choices.
“The Prime Minister is right to want stronger independent school engagement with state schools. I welcome her support for the Sutton Trust’s Open Access work at Belvedere. But rather than creating new untried free schools, the government should work with leading independent day schools so that entry is based on ability rather than ability to pay.
“On higher education, the Prime Minister is right to want to improve outreach by universities, and more support of state schools may help. But the government should as a matter of urgency revisit the scrapping of maintenance grants and consider means-testing fees if they want to improve social mobility.”
NOTES TO EDITORS