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EDITIONS
Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Blunkett predicts demise of grammars
Ripon Grammar School pupils
The future of grammars remains a contentious issue
Grammar schools will probably have disappeared by 2011, according to the Education Secretary, David Blunkett.

He said success of government schemes to boost education standards would see the end of selection in schools.

Mr Blunkett's comments on Thursday followed the failure of anti-grammar campaigners to force a ballot on whether to end selection in Trafford, Greater Manchester.

They did not collect enough parents' signatures to do so, but blamed the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and Mr Blunkett for the failure, alleging they had deliberately made it difficult to collect the required amount.

parent's hand signing petition
The campaigners did not collect enough parents' signatures

Mr Blunkett was speaking at a conference about the government's Sure Start programme, which funds health and early education projects in deprived areas.

It was schemes such as Sure Start, and the literacy and numeracy strategies which would lead to the demise of selection, he said.

"I would like to place a little bet that selection is seen as a total anachronism, because children have reached a point together where they can transfer to secondary schools in a way that makes separating them out look completely daft."

Defeats so far

His comments came in response to questions about whether babies born now would still have to sit exams to gain entrance to some state schools in 11 years' time.

Later, he added that he had always believed that once pupils could read, write and add up properly, selection by ability would become redundant.

The defeat of anti-grammar campaigners in Trafford follows similar defeats in Ripon, North Yorkshire and Kent.

In Kent, campaigners also failed to collect enough signatures to force a ballot.

The only ballot to be held so far took place in Ripon, but the vote went in favour of selection.

To trigger a ballot in Trafford, campaigners needed to collect the signatures of at least 20% of all parents of schools in a particular grammar's catchment area. They only managed to collect 15%.

Anger

A leading member of Trafford's local Labour Party has reacted angrily to the result.

In an article in the New Statesman, Dr Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Wythenshawe and Sale East constituency Labour Party, accused Mr Blair, Mr Blunkett, and School Standards Minister Estelle Morris of concocting a "cynical betrayal".

Dr Clarke said the number of signatures campaigners had managed to collect was good, considering the way the ballot process had been deliberately designed to minimise the chances of success.

He said: "The Trafford campaign will have to take a decision, probably in the autumn, about what happens next, but one thing is sure - the campaign against the 11-plus will continue."

Margaret Tulloch, of the Campaign for State Education, said: "Government should bring forward legislation to require LEAs to set out plans to end selection at 11, then ensure a well-informed local and national debate in which professionals are encouraged to take part, and then following that debate hold a ballot for local parents."

Chris Roberts, secretary of the Trafford anti-grammar campaign, said campaigners had been defeated by the "unfairness and complexity of the system".

They had spent most of their time trying to identify and then contact the electorate.

"If anyone drafting this legislation had thought twice about the practicalities, they would have realised how impossible the task would be," he said.

"The parental lists, that schools were required to prepare in a fortnight, were inaccurate and out-of-date. Some lists took months to arrive.

"Not reaching 20% certaining does not reflect satisfaction with the 11-plus."

'Absurd'

Tory MP and pro-selection campaigner Graham Brady, whose Altrincham and Sale West constituency includes four of Trafford's seven selective schools, said he was delighted that his opponents had conceded defeat.

"It's been apparent for some time that those who want to abolish grammar schools in Trafford were struggling to gain support," he said.

Mr Blunkett's prediction that selection would disappear was "absurd", he added.

He said that two weeks ago, Mr Blunkett had pushed legislation through the Commons, amid opposition from some Labour MPs, to set up "city academies" that would be allowed to select 10% of their intake

"The government's policy is all over the place on this issue," he said.

See also:

08 Jun 00 | Education
27 Mar 00 | Education
12 Mar 00 | Education
11 Mar 00 | Education
01 Sep 99 | Education
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