National Grammar Schools Association
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Clarke signals a new threat to grammars

12th December 2002 - Daily Mail

By Laura Clark, Education Reporter

LABOUR'S war on England's 164 remaining grammar schools was revived yesterday.

The new threat emerged as Education Secretary Charles Clarke signalled that the future of selection would be placed 'under consideration'.

And he suggested that in the meantime, local councils in areas where grammars still exist should consider scrapping the 11-plus examination since it 'inhibited' academic success.

Mr Clarke's remarks reignited the row over selection that Labour has been at pains to lay to rest.

A year ago the Government unveiled an unprecedented truce with grammars by announcing funding for a series of partnerships between selective and comprehensive schools. After winning power, Labour introduced rules allowing parents to trigger local ballots on converting grammars into comprehensives.

However, just one campaign resulted in a ballot, and parents still voted decisively to retain the 11-plus.

Activists effectively abandoned their efforts to scrap selection through the ballot system, claiming ministers had deliberately stacked the odds against them.

But the controversy was back on the agenda yesterday as Mr Clarke revealed that he has met campaigners who tried to close down grammar schools in Kent, and plans to continue talks with them.

He told the Commons Education Select Committee that he had 'no plans for legislation' on the future of grammars.

However, appearing to hint at a change in the Government's stance on selective schools, he added: 'In the political process, that (selection) is bound to be an aspect that comes under consideration as the Government goes forward.'

Mr Clarke insisted that the future of grammars would be decided not on ideological grounds but on whether they contributed to raising standards of achievement among all pupils.

He went on: 'I still believe that where there's selection of that kind, local education authorities should look at themselves critically from the point of view of educational standards.

'It should not be purely ideological, but founded entirely on standards and an assessment of what's happening in the round.'

Last night Brian Wills-Pope, chairman of the National Grammar School Association, branded the new threat to academic selecion as 'scandalous'.

He declared: 'What Mr Clarke is trying to do is get local education authorities to do the government's work.

'But he will put more children into independent schools if he gets rid of them (grammars).'

This is muddled thinking of the Government to deny the right of some very successful schools to stay where they are established in a locality and where there's great demand for them.'

The Department for Education said: 'The government does not support academic selection at 11 and does not wish to see it extended.

'This is an area of policy that - like many - we are constantly reviewing by talking to interested parties.'