Grammar schools should be allowed to expand, Sutton and Cheam MP Paul Burstow argues
Sutton’s grammar schools must be allowed to expand and should operate in a way that is fair to the local community, MP Paul Burstow has argued.
The MP for Sutton and Cheam has called for an expansion of grammar schools, alongside an increase in comprehensive schools, in anticipation of a secondary schools capacity crisis.
There is already huge competition to get into Sutton’s grammar schools and a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request, by this newspaper, revealed that out of the 801 children starting Sutton’s grammar schools this September a staggering 520 of them came from outside the borough.
Traditionally Lib-Dem policy has been opposed to grammar school expansion but Mr Burstow said: "There needs to be a balanced expansion of places across both our comprehensives and grammars.
"Sutton has been good at identifying the rise in primary places. Tom Brake MP and I lobbied the last Government for extra funding to build accommodation and because Sutton was one of the first to see this trend we will be amongst the first needing extra secondary school places too."
The FOI statistics
In response to the FOI statistics Mr Burstow said: "I have long argued that our grammars should operate in a way that is fair to the local community.
“I think that they should adopt the approach used by Nonsuch and Wallington Girls in the past. They should offer guaranteed places to children who pass the test resident in the borough.
"We have some of the country’s best non-selective schools and I'm keen to make sure they have the finances to expand where that makes sense. I also think the borough is likely to need a new high school to meet the demand."
The statement has brought criticism from Paul Scully, Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Sutton and Cheam.
He said: “Paul Burstow and Tom Brake actually voted to ban grammar schools in 2006. Paul Burstow was chief whip at the time and got 55 of his colleagues to do the same.
“I welcome grammar school expansion but we can’t play politics with it. We’ve got to make sure our children get the best opportunity to get the best education they can.
“You don’t change your mind for party politics’ sake – and you can’t jump on the band wagon to protect yourself.”
Mr Burstow is now lobbying the Department for Education to allocate extra places in secondary schools.
Sutton has 14 secondary schools - two of which are Catholic and five of which are grammar schools.
Plans for a new secondary school were mooted at the end of last year when Sutton Council acknowledged a new secondary school may have to be built to cope with the rising demand.
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