It goes almost without saying that opponents of grammar schools won’t like the Prime Minister’s education speech. They will only be able to see it through their miserabilist obsession with a tripartite system that no longer exists.
However, some better-off supporters of grammar schools won’t have liked the speech either. Theresa May floated compelling the latter to take a proportion of children from lower income households. Those people will be worried that their children will lose out. Some staff and governors at these schools will be uneasy about any shake-up.
Furthermore, a slice of the independent sector – teachers and parents – will also have disliked the speech. The Prime Minister suggested that they have been able to push their fees up to exclude British children and rely instead on taking kids from abroad instead. It will be alarmed by May’s talk of “a tougher test on the amount of public benefit required to maintain charitable status”. This is a heartland Conservative-voting constituency.
Secularists, Muslim-haters, Catholo-phobes and anti-religious bigots generally will have disliked the speech too. ConservativeHome thinks it’s great that the cap on new faith school admissions is to end. All those previously named will believe the opposite.
David Cameron and George Osborne will also have little time for the speech, if any, because it poses an uncomfortable question – implicitly and, in places, almost explicity. Namely, that it these ideas are so good, why didn’t Osborne and Cameron push them once there was a Tory majority in the Commons. Michael Gove put his eggs in the basket of non-selective academies, and it isn’t clear what he’ll think of the new Prime Minister’s ideas.
So let’s sum up. Opponents of grammar schools, some supporters of them, a slice of the independent sector, secularists, George Osborne and David Cameron all have reason not to be best pleased with the speech. Not to mention the opposition parties, many peers and some Conservative backbenchers.
All of which highlights just how brave this package of proposals is. Her speech challenges far more vested interests even than Gove did – or Andrew Lansley did with his hazardous health bill.
The Vicar’s daughter who spoke today of “ordinary, working class families” and of creating “the great meritocracy” has front – or balls, if you prefer. She is turning out to be a mysterious hybrid of the cautious and the almost-reckless.
Perhaps the moral is that when she’s convinced of a case she will pursue it, however many risks she may run in doing so. I’m not sure that parts of it will get through Parliament, but I would tip my hat to her were I wearing one.