Minister to urge grammars to take over the running of failing state schools

Schools minister Nick Gibb (pictured) will today urge heads of every grammar in the country to take responsibility for attainment in neighbouring schools

Grammar schools will be told to take over failing comprehensives in a drive to raise standards.

Schools minister Nick Gibb will today urge heads of every grammar in the country to take responsibility for attainment in neighbouring schools.

In the most extreme cases, they could take over the leadership of schools in special measures and become solely accountable for their performance. They could also create their own non-selective schools and impose a ‘grammar school ethos’ on them, Mr Gibb will say.

In instances where local schools are not failing, grammars could simply form partnerships with them to provide help, collaboration and mentoring, he believes. His announcement, in a speech to the Grammar School Heads Association, will pave the way for the country’s most elite selective schools to spread their influence among what are often termed ‘bog-standard comprehensives’.

The move is likely to face opposition from hard-Left activists, who are ideologically opposed to grammars, which they claim are elitist.

Mr Gibb will call on grammars to prove they are ‘engines of social mobility’ by getting other schools to adopt the same ethos, curriculum and high expectations. He will criticise those who oppose change in poor-performing schools, saying they can only be helped by raising the bar rather than lowering expectations.

Mr Gibb hopes more grammars will become Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) so that they can take over struggling comprehensives as well as creating new ones.

He will say: ‘Collaboration between schools can add momentum to raising education standards, as we have seen with the growth of high-performing multi-academy trusts. I would like to see more grammar schools engaged in this type of work, which we know can be mutually beneficial. Through these partnerships, even more pupils will benefit from those qualities that define grammar schools.’

Last night it was revealed that one high-flying grammar in South-East London will take over the management of a struggling local school, in what is thought to be the first case of its kind.

Outstanding-rated Townley Grammar School in Bexleyheath will form a MAT, to be called Odyssey, with Erith School, which Ofsted says ‘requires improvement’ and which has agreed to the move.

The announcement was made in the BBC2 documentary Grammar Schools: Who Will Get In, which featured the two schools. Townley head Desmond Deehan said: ‘For us, it is the right thing to do. As a grammar school we want to influence the education of as many students as we can – particularly disadvantaged students. A common criticism of grammars is that not enough disadvantaged students attend them. This will mean we can have a positive impact on the whole community.’

Theresa May has been an advocate of grammar schools 

Theresa May has been an advocate of grammar schools 

Mr Gibb hopes other grammars will follow Townley’s lead if the project is successful. He will say: ‘We expect schools to work in partnership with other schools, be that through a MAT such as the planned arrangement for Townley and Erith, or through other partnership models.’

MATs are accountable directly to central government and are free to create new schools or take over struggling ones, subject to permission. Currently, only around 15 to 25 MATs include grammars, meaning only a small portion of the country’s 163 grammars have such partnerships with comprehensives. Some grammars do have informal support arrangements with neighbouring schools.

Grammar schools are likely to take note of Mr Gibb’s comments because they are under financial and political pressure to help disadvantaged pupils – under a government incentive scheme, those schools who can show they are prioritising poor pupils will be eligible for money to create more places this year.