A briefing note was photographed in Downing Street about the potential expansion of grammar schools caused concern among teachers and heads unions.
The note, written by Department for Education (DfE) permanent secretary Jonathan Slater, was caught on camera as a civil servant walked along Downing Street.
It referred to a consultation document stating that will open new grammars, “albeit that they would have to follow various conditions”.
Simon Jones, county secretary for the National Union of Teachers said: “Opening new grammar schools would not only be a backward step but is also a complete distraction from the real problems facing schools and education.
“For every grammar school there are three or four ‘secondary modern’ schools. All the evidence makes clear that segregating children leads to lower academic standards.”
Kevin Courtney, the NUT general secretary, added: “The argument that grammar schools create ‘social mobility’ are, in the words of the Ofsted Chief Inspector, ‘tosh and nonsense’.
“Evidence shows that in areas which retain grammar schools, disadvantaged students – who are eligible for free school meals or who live in poor neighbourhoods – are much less likely to be enrolled. Earlier this week the chief inspector of schools’ watchdog Ofsted, poured scorn on the idea that selective schooling would boost social mobility and help children from disadvantaged backgrounds.