I feel I must contact you over recent statements made by the Conservative Party with regard to Grammar Schools.
As a former Grammar School pupil (gained through a scholarship with Hampshire County Council) I feel that these schools must be both supported and encouraged.
Grammar schools have given us some of this country's great leaders and their talents were nurtured in an environment where hard work and diligence were encouraged. I don't see why we should be apologizing for this, it would appear that the PC brigade are now getting their way.
I have voted Conservative all my life, and campaigned for them in the 1997 election. I feel that this latest policy statement is a step too far and I would find it difficult to support such policy in the future.
Mr Cameron went to a Public school and he should not stop others from taking up opportunities in the future. We are in danger of becoming a nation that backs away from encouraging talent and we will end up in the mess we were in under the Labour administration of the late seventies.
I would welcome your comments,
|Date Issue Raised:
||27 May 2007
||Many thanks for the email and for the support which you have extended to my Party in the past.
I think it best two divide this debate into two; first, what should happen to the existing Grammar Schools. Second, how do we raise standards in those schools which are not Grammar Schools the vast majority.
On the first, the Party is quite clear that Grammar Schools should be retained for the reasons which you set out in your letter. Many of my constituents go to Grammar Schools in Wiltshire and those schools should continue to flourish. We are looking at the existing legislation which allows a referendum to be triggered to abolish Grammar Schools and see if this can be altered.
The second question is more difficult, and I have asked myself whether the re-introduction of selection is the answer to the challenges that face us in Andover. Hampshire County Council Conservative controlled abolished selection at 11 some 30 years ago and I detect no appetite locally to see it restored. I think it would be enormously unpopular and divisive, for example, to designate John Hanson as a Grammar School, and Winton and Harroway as comprehensives and I could not support this.
What I want to see is standards driven up in all the schools and I believe the policies that we are looking at are more likely to do this than the re-introduction of selection.
This is what David Cameron said in a recent article.
That means no more confusion of ends and means. Every true Conservative believes in aspiration and opportunity for all. But that belief has been obscured by an outdated attachment to a few schools which deliver aspiration and opportunity to some. The modern way to deliver our ambition is set out in the speech David Willetts made to the CBI on Wednesday.
First, we will introduce a policy of zero tolerance of bad behaviour and bad language in every school in the country. This is not something that requires central imposition: in fact it is centralisation that today stands in the way of the right approach. As I found from my two days teaching at a secondary school in Hull last week, teachers are in despair at their inability to impose discipline. We will make sure that in every school, the headteacher is the absolute captain of the ship. He or she will be able to maintain discipline and exclude poorly behaving pupils without being second-guessed or penalised for doing it.
Second, we will take the keys to educational success - often found in private and grammar schools - and apply them everywhere, in every school. Today, because of the way that league tables and inspections work, there is far too much teaching to the test and teaching to get children from D to C instead of stretching the brightest to get A and A star. That's why we will reform the curriculum, exams and testing, and that's why we want to see aggressive setting by ability - in effect, a 'grammar stream' in every subject, in every school.
Third, we need to create more good school places rather than argue about how to divide up the ones we have. The fact is, we don't have enough and we need more. How do we do it? Not by dividing existing schools up into a thousand grammar schools and two thousand secondary moderns, but by a massive liberalisation of the supply-side of education, with open enrolment and money following the pupil.
We need more 'independent state schools.' City Academies - themselves the diluted successor of the City Technology Colleges set up by the last Conservative government - offer a structure which can be usefully developed. We will go further, by radically dismantling the barriers to entry so that small organisations can gain the capital funding and revenues to establish and run schools. City Academies should not require a millionaire to make the initial investment. They should not have to undergo the restrictive inspection and regulatory regime which stifles the creativity of heads and teachers.
And we will make it easier for anyone to set up a school. Any individual, company, charity, church, community group, teacher or parent co-operative who wants to set up and run a school - providing they meet certain minimal standards - will be able to, without requiring permission from an LEA. That's the way countries like Sweden and Holland have transformed their education systems, and that's what we will do here.
But these reforms require a strong and principled centre-right party to argue for and implement them - and for that matter, a strong and principled centre-right newspaper to champion this cause. So I have a clear and uncompromising message to those who think they can perpetuate the pointless debate about grammar schools: let's stop looking to the past and all get behind realistic plans for a better future, giving opportunities to every child in our country, not just a select few.
I hope you find this helpful.
Best wishes, George Young