PRESS RELEASE MAY 2007
Dear Mr Willetts
I am Chairman of Support Kent Schools, an organisation of some 6,000 parents, teachers and governors. Its purpose is to defend and advance the interests of all Kent’s schools and in particular the elements of selection and choice. We are astonished to hear of your plans to abandon support for grammar schools – as I suspect are a significant number of your own party supporters.
We find it equally astonishing that you are prepared to throw your weight behind the government’s plans to expand the academy programme - an initiative which remains in its early stages of development and one which has yet to be of proven worth.
The arguments which you put forward in support of your stance are not new. They have been well rehearsed by anti selective education campaigners in the past, have failed to impress, been rejected by parents, and totally ignore the educational benefits of selective education.
You will not need reminding;
- that there is much research evidence to show that in selective areas the proportion of children gaining higher grades at GCSE is significantly greater than in wholly comprehensive authorities while at A-level the comparison is even more stark.
- that this country still languishes at the bottom of international league tables or that the Director General of the CBI has expressed his serious concern that over 50% of its youngsters leave school without the basic qualifications in English and Mathematics.
- that the government has acknowledged that streaming by ability is of educational benefit wherever it occurs (in selective or mixed ability schools) or that ICM poll published by the Centre for Policy Studies in June last year confirmed that almost three quarters of the public believe in that some form of selection in secondary schooling helps both academic and less academic children to achieve their potential.
- that when Grammar Schools were widely available to children of academic ability more students from lower income families entered Universities than is the case now.
Or perhaps you do!
If your party is to stand any chance of victory at the next election it would seem sensible to offer genuine alternative policies in key areas. I cannot see how your abandonment of support for selective education achieves this aim. In the matter of Grammar Schools you seem to be in league with the government to deprive our citizens of choice with no “clear blue water between you”.
SKS have for ten years argued that Labour’s legislation to eliminate Grammars is unbalanced and unfair. Surely even inept politicians can see that! A pledge by your Party to give parents without Grammar schools a right to secure one through an identical petition / ballot mechanism would appeal to British fairplay and be popular with the electorate.