This story by Henry Hepburn in the TES 18th February 2018

New education secretary reveals raft of policies

 New education secretary Damian Hinds has said that he would that he would enthusiastically back the expansion of England’s existing 163 grammar schools.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Hinds said he was keen to support “good school places” where there was demand from parents.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show this morning, he said that new grammar schools would not be opened, but that “we are talking about being able to expand existing [grammar schools]”.

He added that in parts of England where there is an existing system of selective education, “those schools should be able to expand, if there’s need and if there’s parental demand and they’re providing good education”.

Hinds also told The Sunday Times that he would abolish a ban on new faith schools taking in more than 50 per cent of pupils on the basis of their religion – a policy which has prevented the Catholic Church opening any free schools.

On sex education, Hinds said he would maintain the rule that parents can withdraw their children from such classes.

When asked on The Andrew Marr Show about this, Hinds said: “What we’re doing is bringing in relationships education in primary school and relationship and sex education in secondary schools…It will be compulsory to have them in all schools, but as I say there’s an established right which will continue for parents to be able to withdraw their children from the sex education bits of relationships and sex education.”

Hinds was questioned by Marr about teacher recruitment and retention problems, and said: “You’re also right that, you know, we need to do more on recruitment and indeed on retention. I think workload is a significant issue for teachers, and I’m determined to do everything that we can on that.”

Hinds – who with prime minster Theresa May is about to launch a review of university funding –– said universities would be ordered to offer students a new “value for money” deal, with tuition fees slashed for arts and social science courses that are seen as doing little to boost careers.

Also on The Andrew Marr Show, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said that a policy which made Stem degrees more expensive than other types of degrees “flies in the face of what our economy’s going to need in the future”, as there was a need for more Stem graduates.

The Treasury Select Committee, meanwhile, has said in a new report that interest rates on student loans are “questionable”.

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