The Sutton Trust came up several times in a debate on grammar schools in the House of Commons, after the Education Secretary made a statement to parliament on her announcement to allow a controversial expansion to a school in Kent.
Challenging the announcement, Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell quoted a Sutton Trust fact sheet on grammar schools and said that “fewer than 3% of those attending grammar schools qualify for free school meals, compared with 18% in the communities that those schools serve”.
Nicky Morgan said that the Government has changed the grammar school admissions code to allows grammar schools to give priority to children who are eligible for the pupil premium in their admission arrangements. She also said “the greatest tool for social mobility we can give to any young person is a great education, and this is exactly what this expansion is all about”.
Later in the debate Barry Sheerman, Labour MP and former Education Committee Chair, announced to parliament that he is “now chair of the advisory committee of the Sutton Trust, and I will take that responsibility very seriously.” Barry was referring to the Sutton Trust Education Advisory Group set up this autumn. He went on to say that successive government have made education in England a “rag, tag and bobtail mess”.
Nicky Morgan responded: “I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment to the Sutton Trust, which is a very important organisation doing great work, but I disagree with his remarks.
Finally Ian Austin, Education Select Committee member and Labour MP, told the Education Secretary that “if she really wants to tackle the social mobility crisis in this country, she should look at the excellent work of the Sutton Trust and consider introducing the open access scheme to enable children from poor backgrounds in constituencies such as mine to get into 120 private schools in this country.” The Sutton Trust Open Access programme is a scheme to democratise access to the UK’s leading independent schools.
Nicky Morgan did not respond directly to this point but talked about how the pupil premium and academy expansion would tackle education disadvantage.