Education spokesman Layla Moran, who attended Roedean, where parents can pay up to £12,000 a year, told activists at the Lib Dems’ annual conference in Brighton yesterday that grammars did “nothing to drive social mobility” and were “a waste of money”.
The Oxford West and Abingdon MP, who was elected only last year and is being tipped as the next Lib Dem leader, said: “It says everything that only three per cent of children on free school meals go to grammars.
“How, when we know they do nothing to drive social mobility, does the Government push them to expand? What a waste of money.”
She added: “What I do want to do, what I would like to see us do as a party, hand-in-hand with the communities that this affects, is take on the harmful, antiquated tradition of the 11-plus exams and indeed, all barriers to entry in the state system.
“I’m especially talking about those areas where families have no choice whatsoever about taking the exams. Where creaming off the middle classes is demonstrably stifling social mobility for those worse off.
“In those areas, grammar schools are, in effect, state-sponsored segregation. It is wrong and it needs to stop.”
Meanwhile Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson is due to tell the conference today that the former coalition government was right to cut the nation’s deficit, but will say poorer people “paid too high a price”.
And Sir Vince Cable, who has said he will not lead his party into the next general election, was warned by an activist last night that his proposals to allow non-MPs to stand for the leadership signalled the Lib Dems were “taking a step back from being a top-flight political party”.
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