Justine Greening rebrands ‘just about managing families’ as ‘ordinary families’
The education secretary wants new grammar schools to help those families who are not rich but do receive benefits.
Education secretary Justine Greening has defended plans for a new wave of grammar schools to give priority to “ordinary working families”.
Greening set about explaining the latest buzzword as she did a round of media interviews this morning.
On Sky News, Greening said the government wanted a "system that puts ordinary working families at its heart".
She told Radio 4’s Today programme that this meant the government wanted to help children who "don’t perhaps quality for free school meals, the pupil premium, but they are growing up in families that are on below median incomes".
She added: "We’re saying that we want to look at the outcomes for children who don’t qualify for free school meals, who don’t quality for pupil premium and are in families that are nevertheless below median income… and we’re quite right to make sure that we put them on our radar as well as more disadvantaged children."
The so-called ‘ordinary working families’ are the first attempt by a minister to define the ‘just about managing’ families that Theresa May set out to champion when she became prime minister.
Politicians are often reluctant to spell out what they mean when they use rhetorical devices such as ‘just about managing’, ‘ordinary working families’ and the ‘squeezed middle’ as they do not want to be seen as excluding certain groups.
But equally it can be dangerous to employ a rhetorical device without putting any flesh on the bones, as was demonstrated in 2010 by Ed Miliband’s toe-curling interview with John Humphreys.
Greening has pointed to new "initial" government analysis that shows a majority of selective school places go to more affluent families. But Labour said ministers had deliberately excluded the poorest families from their calculations.
“This is a classic case of policy-based evidence-making. If your kids get free school meals or qualify for the pupil premium, the government doesn’t think you’re an ‘ordinary working family’,” said shadow education secretary Angela Rayner.
“But however they try to fiddle the figures, the facts are clear and simple. There is no evidence that new grammar schools will do anything for social mobility.”