department for
education and skills
creating opportunity, releasing potential, achieving excellence
Mr E A B Hammond
Support Kent Schools
Faversham Road, Lenham
ME17 2PN
Sanctuary Buildings
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BT

tel: 0870 0012345
fax: 020 7925 6000
    Our ref. 2002/0005353TO
    4 February 2002

Dear Mr Hammond

Thank you for your letter of 18 January to the Secretary of State about the petition on the future of selective admissions currently under way in Kent. I am replying because the issues raised in your letter fall within my area of responsibility.

I understand how you feel about the current policy on grammar schools. However, before 1997 decisions on the future of grammar schools were in the hands of local education authorities (LEAs) and Ministers in Whitehall. The Government had a Manifesto commitment to put those decisions in the hands of local parents. They delivered this commitment precisely because, while they believe that further selection by ability would not enhance standards, it should be for parents locally and not local education authorities or Ministers to decide whether they wish to change the 11 plus.

I appreciate your point about the uncertainty felt by grammar schools when petitions are being collected in their area. However Ministers feel that campaigners have to be given the opportunity to test public opinion if they wish. Current ballot arrangements, with the petition acting as a trigger for the ballot to take place, ensure that changes to selective admissions to grammar schools could happen only if there is a strong display of support from parents.

Schools are already required by law to keep information about all those who have parental responsibility for registered children at the school, including details of their names and addresses, as set out in the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 1995. We are asking them to provide this information to the Electoral Reform Services (ERS) and are paying them grants for the administrative costs.

I appreciate that you might find this reply disappointing. However Ministers believe that current arrangements are fair and sensible and do not plan to alter them.

Yours sincerely,

Gabriela Grimley

Schools Admissions team 1