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The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"He meant there would be no further selection under Labour"
 real 28k

Conservative MP Theresa May
"All the uncertainty is not good for raising standards"
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Sunday, 12 March, 2000, 06:33 GMT
Grammar debate is a 'past agenda'
David Blunkett:
David Blunkett: "I'm not hunting grammar schools"
Education Secretary David Blunkett has sent his clearest message yet that the government has no interest in getting rid of the remaining 164 grammar schools in England.

As critics of selection raise petitions around the UK to scrap grammar schools Mr Blunkett has said it was time to bury the old debate and focus on standards.

Arguments about selection are a past agenda

David Blunkett
"I'm not hunting grammar schools," he told the Sunday Telegraph.

"I'm desperately trying to avoid the whole debate in education concentrating on the issue of selection when it should be concentrating on the raising of standards.

"Arguments about selection are a past agenda."

Mr Blunkett's comments are bound to anger Labour Party activists, many of whom are deeply opposed to schools which select their children on the basis of ability.

His remarks come as campaigners against selection vowed to fight on despite losing the battle over the future of Ripon Grammar School in North Yorkshire.

In the first ballot under government legislation enabling parents to vote on whether to retain local grammar schools there was a two-to-one victory for keeping the school's selection policy.

The row in North Yorkshire continues, however, with anti-selection campaigners planning to appeal on the grounds that ballot regulations were breached.

Similar campaigns against selection are being fought in Kent, Greater Manchester, Birmingham and the London boroughs of Barnet and Sutton.

Missing word

It is also reported that one of Labour's key education speeches contained a slip of the tongue leading to public confusion over Labour's education policy.

Sources close to Mr Blunkett said he had made the error during a 1995 party conference speech.

Mr Blunkett told the party faithful - and a nationwide audience of voters: "Watch my lips, no selection, either by examination or interview, under a Labour government."

But on Saturday his close associates said he had meant to say "no further selection".

The crucial missing word could have been used to mean schools would not have been allowed to introduce selection procedures under Labour but those with selection rules would be allowed to keep them.

After Saturday's admission shadow education and employment spokeswoman Theresa May said: "This represents a massive climbdown by David Blunkett.

"If what he says now is to be believed, he should immediately repeal his ballot regulations and remove the threat to our remaining grammar schools.

"The Ripon ballot result was a great victory for common sense. Mr Blunkett's remarkable admission, four years on, seems like a desperate reaction to that."
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See also:

11 Mar 00 | Education
Anti-grammar campaigners fight on
10 Mar 00 | Education
Parents vote to keep grammar school
09 Mar 00 | Education
Grammar ballot divides parents
15 Jul 99 | Education
Grammar school ballots inquiries
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