Europe

UK education reforms spark debate on class and the classroom

  • Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech at the British Academy in London, where she said that a new wave of grammar schools will end "selection by house price" and give every child the chance to go to a good school, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. (Nick Ansell/PA via AP)

    Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech at the British Academy in London, where she said that a new wave of grammar schools will end "selection by house price" and give every child the chance to go to a good school, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. (Nick Ansell/PA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrives to deliver a speech at the British Academy in London, where she said that a new wave of grammar schools will end "selection by house price" and give every child the chance to go to a good school, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. (Nick Ansell/PA via AP)

    Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrives to deliver a speech at the British Academy in London, where she said that a new wave of grammar schools will end "selection by house price" and give every child the chance to go to a good school, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. (Nick Ansell/PA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech about possible changes to secondary education at the British Academy in London Friday Sept. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nick Ansell, Pool )

    Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech about possible changes to secondary education at the British Academy in London Friday Sept. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nick Ansell, Pool )  (The Associated Press)

In Britain, the class system and the classroom are intertwined, and education reforms inevitably cause political controversy.

Prime Minister Theresa May made a bold move Friday by announcing plans to create new academically focused grammar schools, by letting more state-funded schools select children based on results.

May said she would lift restrictions limiting new selective schools to make Britain "a place where advantage is based on merit, not privilege."

The plan will face opposition. For decades, British children were tested at age 11. Those who did best went to grammar schools; the rest attended "secondary moderns" that offered little chance of getting to university.

The two streams were merged, and nowadays most children attend state comprehensive schools. Many educationalists say creating new grammar schools will lower standards in comprehensives.