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Last Updated: Friday, 26 March, 2004, 11:42 GMT
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The number of pupils in grammar schools in England has risen under the Labour government.

The biggest rise was due to the designation of eight schools as grammar schools in 1998, making 164 in all.

They have taken in another 9,873 students since 1999 - many likely to be sixth-formers, head teachers say.

Far more children are educated in wholly selective state schools than 20 years ago - 150,750 or 4.6% of the total, compared with 117,147 or 3.1%.

Selection

Prior to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 there was no legal definition of a grammar school.

% PUPILS IN GRAMMARS
1983: 3.1%
1993: 3.8%
1997: 4.2%
2000: 4.5%
2004: 4.6%
The Act said the key was whether a school selected all or most of its pupils "by reference to general ability".

A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills said: "There were a few grammar schools which did not designate themselves as such in the department's returns in 1997 but were in fact grammars.

"They typically selected all but a small amount of their pupils on ability so it was sensible to include them in the grammar sector."

That took the total number of grammars to 164, and no new ones have been opened.

But they have expanded and the number of pupils in them has continued to increase.

Nigel Briers, a retired grammar school head teacher who speaks for the Grammar Schools Association, said he suspected the growth was probably in sixth forms.

"Parents and kids want to get in to the kind of schools that will give them the academic backup they need," he said.

Ballots

The 1998 Act also made provision for ballots of parents on whether to keep selection.

Only one ballot has been held - in relation to Ripon Grammar School in North Yorkshire - and parents decided to keep things as they were.

HAVE YOUR SAY
We need to raise standards in our comprehensive schools to the standard of the grammar schools
Veejay, England

The School Standard Minister, David Miliband, said recently he would vote against selection if he had the choice.

Asked about the new figures, he said the number of children going to grammar schools had not accelerated under Labour.

"The government doesn't think that having more grammars is the right way to promote a high-achieving system," he said.

"The 1998 legislation made it clear that it was not right to have more grammar schools and that remains the case."

The pupil statistics were given to the Commons by the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, in response to a question from the Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East in Essex, Sir Teddy Taylor.

There are four grammars in his area.

Sir Teddy asked the government if it would "consider establishing grammar schools in some of our major cities, where despite all the efforts of the government and local councils there is a system of virtual class segregation and children of ability from poor homes do not have a chance to break through?"

Mr Clarke said the short answer was no.

He said the "city academy" programme was the kind of investment in high-quality schools in the poorest communities that was needed "to allow every child to fulfil their own aspirations".

He added: "It is not just for some children who have been sieved off in a particular way."

'No more selection'

Labour's first education secretary after its 1997 election win was David Blunkett.

He had famously promised at the 1995 Labour Party conference: "Read my lips: no selection, either by examination or interview, under a Labour government."

It was later said that he had meant to say "no more selection".




SEE ALSO:
Time to review selection debate?
20 Dec 03  |  Education
Majority 'favour academic selection'
26 Jan 04  |  Northern Ireland
School shake-up plans condemned
23 Feb 04  |  Gloucestershire
Plan to end school admissions row
10 Sep 03  |  Education
Clarke meets anti-grammar campaigners
19 Mar 03  |  Education


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