Every now and then a TV presenter tires of being fobbed-off with the party line and gives a slippery politician a grilling worthy of David Frost.
BBC Breakfast’s Charlie Stayt had his moment this morning when he tired of Education Secretary Justine Greening’s rhetoric over grammar schools.
Greening was touring the TV studios in a bid to convince the public that the return of selective schooling was going to be good for “ordinary working families”.
The minister had forced the soundbite down the throats of viewers at a rate of once a minute in her opening answers and it proved too much for Stayt, who told her:
“Anyone watching this morning will have noticed, I’ve not done a counter, but you’ve used the phrase ordinary working families pretty much every answer. The fact is that most people watching this programme, who are from ordinary working families, whatever they may be. We can assume that’s pretty much everyone who works and they’ve got kids – most of their kids don’t go to grammar schools and won’t go to grammar schools.
“The vast majority do not. You seem to be spending an awful lot of time on this grammar school thing. Are you really convinced it in, number one? And number two, while you’re talking about grammar schools most headteachers say they’re struggling to make ends meet, parents have got letters from the school saying ‘can we have a fiver, can we have 20 quid to help us get by’. You seem to be stuck in a dogma about grammar schools when the rest of the education system is flailing around trying to make ends meet.”
Having asked about the state of comprehensive schools, the presenter had to stop Greening as she set off on another pre-prepared answer about grammar schools.
“I want you to talk about most people’s children and where they go to school,” he said. “And it’s not grammar schools. Why aren’t you putting more money into a system that’s failing?”
Greening admitted he was “absolutely right” and confirmed just 163 of 7,000 secondary schools in England are grammars. But she claimed the Government was putting “record funding” into state schools and that the school budget will rise in the next few years.
That’s completely contrary to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) analysis of spending plans that says Greening is overseeing the biggest cuts to school spending since Thatcher was in power.
And Stayt was in no mood to let her get away with it. He added:
“Let’s lay this record investment in schools thing to rest completely. Because you know full well, the IFS, who have looked into this, have said that spending per pupil is likely to fall by 8% in real terms between 2014-15 and 2019-20.
“Whatever you say about the amount of cash going in, the reality for the schools…and surely, you’re the Education Secretary, that’s the only thing you care about isn’t it? The reality of what a school is like inside, it’s getting worse. Do you not know it’s getting worse? Are you not hearing the messages from teachers and headteachers who say they haven’t got enough money? And you’re prepared to sit there and an overall sum which is bigger when the reality is that they say they haven’t got enough money.”
You can watch Stayt put the record straight for yourself below. The good stuff starts at 5 minutes: