National Grammar Schools Association
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Expansion of Popular Schools: NGSA Response

9th December 2004

Letter send yo Mr Shand, Department for Education and Skills

Dear Mr Shand,

We must object most strongly to your failure to include the NGSA in your ‘consultation’ on the expansion of successful and popular schools.* In particular, we object to the government’s discrimination against grammar schools in its draft Regulations entitled Education (School Organisation Proposals) (England) (Amendment) Regulation 2004.

Many grammar schools have 10 or more voluntary applicants to take their 11-plus exam for each available place. So they are clearly popular.

Grammar schools produce excellent exam results, not least for the brightest pupils. On 20 May 2003, Graham Brady MP received a written answer to a Parliamentary Question about the percentages of pupils gaining 5 or more A*-A grade GCSEs in wholly selective areas, wholly comprehensive areas and nationally in the year 2002. The answer from standards minister David Miliband, was as follows:

Wholly Selective LEAs Wholly Comprehensive LEAs National Average

  Wholly Selective LEAs Wholly Comprehensive LEAs National Average
5 or more A*-A
grade GCSEs
15.1% 8.6% 9.7%

Grammar schools also do well for pupils of lesser ability. In Making a Difference: Performance of Maintained Secondary Schools in England, 2003, the National Audit Office noted that: ‘Our analysis suggests that on average, across their range of pupils, the 164 selective schools in England made a bigger difference to the academic achievements of pupils than the average for other schools at Key Stage 3… The difference made by selective schools at both key Stage 3 and GCSE level appear to be of particular benefit to pupils who have a relatively low level of prior academic achievement.’ So grammar schools are clearly successful with higher and lower ability pupils.

Furthermore, to discriminate against supporters of grammar schools contradicts the government’s so-called ‘inclusion’ policies, because these proposals deliberately exclude many popular and successful schools (including popular primary schools). They also ignore the right of parents to choose an education ‘in conformity with their own ... philosophical convictions’ (Human Rights Act, 1998).

Charles Clarke has claimed that he considers standards are more important than ideology. We therefore request that ministers urgently reconsider their decision to exclude grammar schools from the proposals for expansion of successful and popular schools.

Yours sincerely,

Brian Wills-Pope, Chairman.

*N.B. We find it impossible to understand how the views of the GMB, the British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society, the TGWU and Unison (all of whom you list as consultees) can be more important than those of the NGSA and the grammar schools directly affected by these proposals.