Tuesday, May 19, 1998 Published at 23:31 GMT 00:31 UK
Under the 1944 Education Act, local education authorities were given the responsibility for planning and delivering primary and secondary education in their areas.
Between 1944 and the mid 1960s, most local authorities operated a system of grammar, technical and secondary modern schools, with pupils being allocated to schools on the basis of their performance in 11-plus examinations.
Selection became unpopular in the 1960s and the local authorities were encouraged to move towards comprehensive systems. In 1974, the Labour government legislated for universal comprehensive education, but the Conservative government elected in 1979 allowed grammar schools to continue.
In 1997 there were 3,798 state secondary schools in England and Wales, catering for 3,209,000 pupils. The average class size was 21.9; the pupil-teacher ratio, 16.7:1.
Middle-deemed secondary schools
Secondary grammar schools
Secondary grammar schools make up 4.2 per cent of the secondary pupils in England.
The government has said there will be no new grammar schools, but has said that where they already exist, local parents will decide on any changes in the admission arrangements, not the local education authority.
Change will be decided through a ballot of local parents, but this will only take place if a petition has been put forward by local parents. However, it is so far unclear how many signatures will be required on such a petition, and whether parents of children who do not attend grammar schools can take part.
Secondary modern schools