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Last Updated: Monday, 8 October 2007, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
How grammar school ballots work
The government is reviewing the rules about parental ballots on the future of England's 164 remaining grammar schools.

David Blunkett's words about grammar schools were one of the more memorable phrases of the Labour Party conference in 1995.

"Read my lips: no selection, either by examination or interview, under a Labour government."

This seemed clear enough.

But when Labour got in to government, and Mr Blunkett became education secretary, he said he had intended to say "no further selection".

In other words, there would be no new grammar schools but there would not be the automatic abolition of the existing grammars that some had taken his words to mean.

The policy had been made clear in the 1997 general election manifesto.

That said: "Labour will never force the abolition of good schools whether in the private or state sector.

"Any changes in the admissions policies of grammar schools will be decided by local parents."

The concession to the anti-grammar (or pro-comprehensive) lobby was the introduction of parental ballots to determine the future of grammar schools.

How ballots work

It is a two-stage process - beginning with a petition for a ballot, which requires the signatures of a fifth of local parents.

Once this has been achieved there is then a vote among eligible parents.

There has been only one ballot - over Ripon Grammar School, where parents voted to keep selection.

Fans of grammar schools say the system is fair. But campaigners against the 11-plus say it is rigged in favour of the status quo.

For ballots over a single grammar school (rather than a whole area), eligibility to vote and sign the petition is based on parents of children at schools which send five or more pupils to the school in question.

These rules about what constitutes a "feeder" school have been disputed.

They can mean that parents at private prep schools can vote, because the schools successfully prepare children for the 11-plus, while Catch-22 means that parents in nearby state primary schools are excluded because the schools have no tradition of sending pupils to grammar school.

For ballots in areas which are fully selective, such as the Buckinghamshire education authority, which has only secondary modern or grammar schools, there is another set of rules for eligibility.

This is intended to cover all the families who might be affected.

Getting 20% of these parents to sign a ballot petition has proved difficult for anti-grammar campaigners - and several efforts to gather names fizzled out.

Reports have suggested that it is this threshold that might be amended in the government's latest review.

Review of grammar abolition polls
08 Oct 07 |  Education
Cameron warning to grammar rebels
18 May 07 |  UK Politics

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