National Grammar Schools Association
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Statement from the National Grammar Schools Association (NGSA), 25 May 2007

In view of the policy statements made in May 2007 by David Cameron, who leads the Conservative Party and David Willets, his shadow education secretary, our response is as follows:

The NGSA exists to defend the remaining 164 state grammar schools in England and the 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland. Another of our aims is to promote the introduction of more grammar schools as an additional choice for parents and their children in areas where they don't currently exist.

The Conservative leaders have stated that there is no threat to the remaining 164 grammar schools in England and that they support them. This shows they do not understand the situation. Rejecting 'more grammar schools' puts England's 164 grammars in jeopardy, despite claims to the contrary. Plans by Westminster MPs to destroy the 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland are already well advanced. Existing grammar schools in Lincolnshire are currently under threat. Only a Conservative victory in local elections has recently saved 4 grammar schools in Gloucester. There are rumours (as yet unproven) that capital funding under Labour's Building Schools for the Future programme is conditional on reducing the number of grammar school places. And specifically excluding grammar schools from Conservative proposals to allow parents or voluntary organisations to start new schools is incoherent.

Messrs Cameron and Willetts are also wrong to suggest that grammar schools cater almost exclusively for 'middle-class' children. There are many grammar schools where large proportions of their pupils live in areas of social deprivation. In any event, more grammar schools and more places in grammar schools would allow more children from all backgrounds to benefit from the excellent education they provide.

Three recent opinion polls have supported more grammar schools. In 2006, ICM carried out a survey for the NGSA, when 70% of those questioned wanted more grammar schools. A similar survey for the Centre for Policy Studies at the end of 2006 showed almost identical results. A recent YouGov poll also showed 70% in favour. During the recent debate in the media, 73% of respondents on the ConservativeHome website said that Messrs Cameron and Willetts are wrong.

Arguably, they are also wrong to give such strong support to the building of more city academies which, unlike grammar schools, are as yet unproven. The average proportion of city academies' pupils achieving 5 or more grade *A-C GCSEs including English and maths is only 22%. (In grammar schools it is 97%.) So far, there is no evidence that city academies stretch their brightest pupils. City academies are expensive to build and to run – at up to £9,000 a year, their funding per pupil is 2 or 3 times the funding per pupil in grammar schools and about the same as average fees for independent day-schools. City academies do offer another choice for parents, but they can never replace grammar schools.

Finally, none of this means that we don't care about children who are compelled to attend ineffective schools. We care about them very much. But the state education system is controlled by politicians. Ineffective schools (none of which are grammar schools) are their responsibility, not the NGSA's.

We are most grateful for all the support we have received over the last few days. If you wish to help our campaign, you have 4 options:

  • You can publicly express you support by becoming a Friend of the Grammar Schools HERE
  • You can become an Associate Member of the NGSA HERE
  • You can fill in our opinion poll form HERE
  • You can write to David Cameron, David Willets, your MP, or any of the political parties