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

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Wednesday, July 7, 1999 Published at 19:30 GMT 20:30 UK


Clash over grammar schools

Parents can decide the fate of grammar schools

Conservative leader William Hague has accused Labour of lying when it made an election pledge not to close grammar schools.

In a clash with Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Commons, he said Labour party activists were campaigning to close grammar schools.

But Mr Blair said that the power to shut grammar schools lay with pupils' parents, not the government, and that so far no parents had chosen to close any grammar schools.

Mr Hague raised the issue during Prime Minister's Questions, referring to a letter to parents during the Wirral South by-election of February 1997, in which he said Mr Blair had pledged a Labour government would not close grammar schools.


Mr Hague said to Mr Blair: "When the Labour Party made that promise at the last election, they lied to the people.

"Isn't it time that, instead of their hypocrisy, you called off the members of the Labour Party from destroying some of the best schools in the country?

"Or is it that even you have no respect now for the promises that you made?"

He said he would campaign against the Labour party to save grammar schools.

But Mr Blair said: "As you know perfectly well, the Labour government has not closed a single grammar school."

'Rise in spending'

He said the power to close grammar schools used to lie with local education authorities, but now lay with parents, and that Mr Hague was talking "complete nonsense".

[ image: Theresa May:
Theresa May: "Rural schools under threat"
"I suggest, rather than raising scare stories, you concentrate on the difference between the education achievements of this government and the government that we succeeded."

The Labour government was raising spending on school children by £200 per pupil, whereas the Conservative government, of which Mr Hague had been a cabinet member, had cut spending per pupil by £80, he said.

"The party that closed more grammar schools in Britain than any other was the Conservative party."

Rural schools

  • Shadow Education Secretary Theresa May has said that the Labour government's education policies are posing a real threat to rural schools.

    She raised the issue in a Commons deabte on choice and diversity in education on Wednesday.

    The abolition of grant maintained schools, ballots to close grammar schools and the reduction of the ability of schools to determine their admissions were leading to "increased uniformity and less choice" in schools, she said.

    This, added to the government's policy of reducing class sizes, rules on how money can be spent, and "increasing bureaucracy from the centre", was causing particular problems for rural schools.

    "Prescription from government doesn't take account of the different needs of rural schools, and increased bureaucracy is particularly difficult to handle in a small school with a small number of teachers", she said.

    But Education Secretary David Blunkett denied Labour policies were restricting choice and diversity.

    Advanced options | Search tips

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

  • Education Contents

    Hot Topics
    UK Systems
    League Tables

    Relevant Stories

    25 Jun 99†|†Education
    May wants local 'flexibility' for schools

    28 May 99†|†Education
    Grammar schools 'excluding the poor'

    09 Feb 99†|†Education
    Grammar schools divisive, says PM

    08 Feb 99†|†Education
    Parents left out of grammar ballots

    27 Jan 99†|†Education
    Kent headteachers condemn grammars

    22 Jan 99†|†Education
    Getting rid of grammars could save money

    Internet Links

    Campaign for State Education - 'Say no to selection'

    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'