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Wednesday, 14 February, 2001, 11:59 GMT
Hague predicts return of grammars
ripon grammar class
Ripon Grammar School: Backed in parental ballot
William Hague has said that the Conservatives are the party that will bring back grammar schools in England.

He said his "free schools" policy would involve all schools being able to set their own criteria for admissions - with some being wholly selective.

In an article in the Daily Telegraph, the Tory leader said the prime minister's new promise that children would be "educated to the fullest extent of their ability" was "code for selection by aptitude".

Mr Hague's intervention continues the fallout over Labour's green paper on the future of secondary schools in England, published on Monday.

This produced widespread reports of "the death of the comprehensive" - prompted in large part by a remark by the prime minister's official spokesman that the days of the "bog standard comprehensive" were over.

Teachers' unions said this had offended many of their members.

'Monolithic' system

Government sources stressed on Tuesday that "the comprehensive ideal" was alive and well.

New grammar schools will appear, reversing a 30-year policy of destruction...

William Hague
In his article, Mr Hague repeatedly uses the word "monolithic" to describe the comprehensive system.

The system which had "let down a large part of a whole generation of children" would continue if Labour were re-elected, he said.

The green paper limited selection to 10% of pupils in less than half of state schools - the specialist schools - "a tiny proportion".

He accused Tony Blair of "a piece of hypocrisy breathtaking even by his standards" in claiming that the battle over grammar schools is "largely resolved".

'All spin'

Nowhere was there any mention of abolishing the "divisive, vindictive and expensive" parental ballots which threatened grammars, he said.

Mr Hague said Mr Blair had learnt to use the language of diversity, excellence and choice - but was all spin and no delivery.

A Tory education secretary would let all schools specialise and set their own admissions policy.

"Some schools will wish to select part of their intake; others will wish to be wholly selective.

"That means new grammar schools will appear, reversing a 30-year policy of destruction that has done more than anything else to lower standards in our state education system."

Recent history

He has promised to fund schools directly, rather than via local education authorities (LEAs).

The Conservatives say this would mean each school getting an extra 540 per pupil on average.

The shadow education secretary, Theresa May, has said that where schools - especially small primaries - were unable or unwilling to undertake the sort of services they get from LEAs they might band together in "clusters".

Most grammar schools disappeared in the early 1970s under the then Conservative education secretary, Margaret Thatcher.

The former Tory prime minister, John Major, predicted a resurgence of grammar schools which never happened.

Labour MPs unhappy

Nine Labour MPs have said the government's green paper betrays the party's traditional values.

The nine - including veteran left-wingers Tony Benn and Dennis Skinner - have signed a Commons early day motion expressing their "grave disappointment" at the proposals.

The motion said "selection by aptitude, ability, race, religion and class is inherently divisive in society" and the government should "commit itself to a fully comprehensive system of education throughout life, which has been the historic commitment of the Labour Party over the last half century and which is essential if a fully educated democracy is to develop in this country."



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13 Feb 01 | Education
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