Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Friday, January 22, 1999 Published at 00:05 GMT


Getting rid of grammars could save money

The 11-plus exam would disappear if parents vote against grammars

By BBC News Online's Sean Coughlan

Closing grammar schools could save local authorities money, rather than cause extra expense as has been previously predicted.

The Conservative education spokesman, Damian Green, has forecast that it would cost £0.5bn to close grammar schools across England, spending that he condemned as a "scandalous waste".

But a survey of local authorities with grammar schools carried out by BBC News Online shows little evidence of such a large expense for ending selection.

Mr Green's figure is a projection based on the estimated cost of closing grammar schools in Kent, but a survey of local authorities shows that in terms of the re-organisation required, Kent is the exception rather than the rule.

[ image: Damian Green stands by his forecast that it would cost £0.5bn to get rid of grammars]
Damian Green stands by his forecast that it would cost £0.5bn to get rid of grammars
A telephone survey of authorities representing two-thirds of the remaining 164 grammar schools finds no authority other than Kent firmly predicting additional expense - although a number have still to make costings.

While Kent says that it could cost £150m to close its 33 grammar schools, in the neighbouring authority of Medway, the education authority says that there will be no extra expense and there could be possible savings in having a single system.

Buckinghamshire, which has 13 grammar schools, says that there might be a slight initial expense, but the authority does not anticipate an expensive upheaval if it were forced to end selection.

Savings on school transport, as grammar school intakes are more widely spread, could mean reduced rather than increased spending in Essex, if grammar school status ended. But the authority says it is expecting no overall difference in cost.

In Warwickshire, the education authority says that if parents vote to end grammar school status it will not be likely to mean substantial costs.

But Mr Green stands by his figures, which he say reflects the expenditure necessary to ensure that comprehensive schools of sufficient size replace grammars.

Marginal change

If schools are simply "rebadged" as non-selective, he says the changeover will be cheaper, but educational standards will suffer in the process. According to Mr Green, only seven of the remaining grammar schools are large enough to transfer directly into the comprehensive system.

The estimates for Kent, which are themselves claimed as exaggerated by anti-grammar school campaigners, are based on the need for a fundamental re-allocation of school places if grammars are abolished, involving new buildings and school amalgamations.

But many grammars around the country are in authorities which are largely non-selective and the impact of a change of status will only be marginal.

For example in Lancashire there are four grammars out of 90 secondary schools, with these four already holding opted-out grant-maintained status. As such, the authority says it is not expecting any substantial organisational changes.

'Dogma over pragmatism'

The arguments over the future of grammars are set to run throughout this year, as legislation passed by the government allows parents to hold local ballots on the future of grammar schools.

The closure of grammars would be "dogma against pragmatism", the Conservatives argue, saying that the ballots will be an unnecessary and politically-motivated attack on successful schools.

But the Campaign for State Education, which is running a 'Say No to Selection' campaign, says that any initial costs are worth the effort to create what they believe to be a fairer system.

The campaign's spokeswoman, Margaret Tulloch, rejected the Conservatives' claims on the expense of changing systems, saying that no accurate figures existed for the cost of re-organisation.

If there were expenses, she said that government should step in to assist local authorities and ensure that the money did not come from existing education budgets.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Education Contents

Hot Topics
UK Systems
League Tables

Relevant Stories

12 Jan 99†|†Education
Inspectors question operation of 11-plus system

04 Jan 99†|†Education
Abolishing grammars a 'scandalous waste'

18 Nov 98†|†Education
Parents to decide fate of grammar schools

13 Nov 98†|†Education
Hattersley rebels over grammar schools

Internet Links

Say No to Selection campaign

Conservative Party

Department for Education and Employment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

'Golden hellos' fail to attract new teachers

Children join online Parliament

Pupils 'too ignorant to vote'

Red tape toolkit 'not enough'

Poor report for teacher training consortium

Specialist schools' results triumph

Ex-headmaster guilty of more sex charges

Blunkett welcomes Dyke's education commitment

Web funding for specialist teachers

Local authorities call for Woodhead's sacking

Dyslexic pensioner wins PhD

Armed forces children need school help

Black pupils 'need better-trained teachers'

College 'is not cool'