A Budget boost for education worth more than £500m is set to pave the way for a new generation of grammar schools.
Chancellor Philip Hammond is to pledge £320m to help fund up to 140 new free schools, many of which are expected to become grammars.
The cash boost comes as Theresa May declares it is her “personal mission” to create a grammar schools revolution, with a vow to lift the current ban on new selective schools.
She has announced that a Schools White Paper, to be published within weeks, will contain plans to reverse the ban on new grammars imposed by Labour nearly 20 years ago.
The schools investment to be announced by Mr Hammond will also include £216m in infrastructure funding to rebuild and refurbish existing schools.
And, in a first move towards the PM’s grammar schools crusade, there will be free transport to help children from poor backgrounds – such as those on free school meals – go to a grammar school.
Ahead of the Budget, the PM said: “Over the last six years we have overseen a revolution in our schools system and we have raised standards and opportunity, but there is much more to do.
“As part of our commitment to creating a school system that works for everyone, today we are confirming new investment to give parents a greater choice of a good school place for their child, and we will set out the next stage of our ambitions in the coming months.”
The Chancellor added: “We are not starting from scratch; we have protected the core schools budget, which stands at over £40bn this year, and these announcements take the next steps in giving parents greater choice in finding a good school for their child, whatever their background.”
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the PM said: “If we are to give our children and grandchildren a fair chance to succeed in an ever more competitive world, we have to build a future where every child can access a good school place.
“That means decisively shifting Britain’s education system and building a Great Meritocracy so that children from ordinary working families are given the chances their richer contemporaries take for granted.”
In her Telegraph article, the Prime Minister also confronts those who attack grammar schools as being for the privileged because they are situated in affluent, middle-class areas.
She added: “The brutal and unacceptable truth is that for far too many children in ordinary working-class families, the chance they have in life is determined by where they live or how much money their parents have.
“It is selection based on house prices and parental income, because when you are working two jobs and struggling to make ends meet, it is no good being told that you can choose a better school for your children by moving to a different area or paying to go private.”
However, critics claim more funding for free schools and grammar schools is a waste of money.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, told Sky News: “I think it’s a nonsense really. We have free schools being built where they’re not wanted. They’re not needed. There are too many pupil places already.
“And at the same time, you have parents unable to get their child into a school, travelling miles to get their child educated. This is unnecessary expenditure at a time we can ill afford.”
And on grammar schools, Dr Bousted said: “Grammar schools are the Tories’ solution to no known problem. We know that in grammar school areas, the educational outcomes are actually worse for the majority of children.
“Grammar schools are not an answer to social mobility – they divide, they don’t unite. They are a waste of money.”