Long-lens cameras have caught unwitting ministers out once again after controversial plans to open new grammar schools were snapped on Downing Street on Tuesday (6 September). Earle Howe, the deputy leader of the House of Lords and defence minister, was reportedly pictured with the document penned by a top civil servant.
The memo reveals a government consultation "says we will open new grammars", while admitting the Department for Education mandarin doesn't know what the PM Theresa May thinks of the proposals and warning that the upper chamber would not back new selective schools without "various conditions".
The gaffe comes after new Education Secretary Justine Greening said she was "open minded" about new grammars, which typically enrol students if they pass an attainment test at the age of 11.
Grammars and secondary modern schools were phased out during the 1960s and 1970s and replaced by comprehensive schools.
May faced a grilling during the BBC's Andrew Marr show over the issue on Sunday. "What I'd like to see Andrew is ensuring an education system, regardless of where people are, regardless of the school they're going to, that is ensuring they're getting the quality of education that enables them to take on those opportunities," she told the journalist.
Labour have claimed today's leak means the "cat is out of the bag" on the issue. "Behind closed doors the Tories are planning a return to the bad old days of grammars, ignoring all the evidence which has told us time and again that they do not aid social mobility," said Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary.
"The Tories have overseen a school places crisis, the highest rate of teachers leaving the profession in a decade and over half a million pupils in super-sized classes. These issues should be her priority, not harking back to a golden-age that never existed."
Sir Michael Wishaw, the chief of schools watchdog OfSted, has warned that bringing back grammar schools would be "nonsense".
A Department for Education spokesperson said: "The prime minister has been clear that we need to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. We are looking at a range of options to allow more children to access a school that lets them rise as far as their talents will take them. Policies on education will be set out in due course and it would be inappropriate to comment further on internal government documents."
What the memo appears to say
The con doc says we will open new grammars, albeit that they would have to follow various conditions.
The SoS's clear position is that this should be presented in the con doc as an option, and only to be pursued once we have worked with existing grammars to show how they can be expanded and reformed in ways which avoid disadvantaging those who don't get in.
I simply don't know what the PM thinks of this, but it sounds reasonable to me, and I simply can't see any way of persuading the Lords to vote for selection on any other basis.