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EDITIONS
Friday, 14 February, 2003, 10:22 GMT
Labour campaigners target grammars
Ripon Grammar School
Parents voted to keep Ripon Grammar School
The Labour Party is being urged to end school selection, by a campaign group launched on Monday.

Former Labour cabinet member Frank Dobson is among speakers at the campaign's launch at the House of Commons.

And the anti-grammar campaign is claiming the support of 40 Labour MPs.

A letter is to be sent to all Labour constituency secretaries in England asking them to support the push against selective education.

"After five years of a Labour government more primary school children in England face selection and thereby being labelled as failures before they move into secondary education," says the letter.

"The ideal of a comprehensive school system in England is a long way from being realised.

"There are grammar schools in 36 English local education authorities and roughly a third are fully selective.

"Partial selection is likely to increase as more and more schools specialise and children face 'aptitude' tests for admission."

Safe in his hands?

The Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, has again said the government "doesn't support selective systems".

Interviewed on Breakfast With Frost on BBC One on Sunday, he was asked: "Are the grammar schools safe in your hands?"

Mr Clarke replied: "I have never used that phrase - I don't think anything's safe in anybody's hands ever."

He said the guarantee he could give was there would be no "ideological attack" on grammar schools.

"There will be a discussion with the grammar schools, as for all other schools in the country, about the quality of education that's there, the level of the standards that are provided."

He said that for schools of every kind the government should look at standards "with a very heavy glance".

"We should look very carefully at what's happened and focus on improving standards across the range."

Parental ballots

The government has introduced a ballot process which allows parents to end selection.

But so far, there has only been one ballot, in Ripon in Yorkshire, and that vote resulted in the retention of a local grammar school.

Campaigners want the Labour Party to take a stronger line against selective education in England, where 164 grammar schools still remain.

There are no grammar schools in Wales or Scotland - and there are proposals to end the 11-plus system in Northern Ireland.

The campaigners want to apply pressure from within Labour to shape future education policy.

Excellence

The head of one of the country's top selective schools - the Royal Grammar in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire - said he thought the time for "old-fashioned socialist doctrines" was long past.

Headmaster Tim Dingle said: "We believe schools should be right for each individual child.

"We are a centre of excellence, not elitism."

He said his school helped other primary and secondary schools locally to raise their standards - not in a patronising way, but because it had the expertise to do so.

See also:

17 Jan 03 | Education
12 Dec 02 | Education
10 Mar 00 | Education
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