P.O. Box 921 Maidstone Kent ME14 5WZ
Telephone 01622 734098 Web site: www.support-kent-schools.org.uk

18 January 2002

Estelle Morris
Secretary of State for Education
DfES - Sanctuary Buildings
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BT

Dear Secretary of State,

I am sure you are aware that opponents of selective education in Kent have twice attempted to seize the opportunity provided under existing legislation to invoke a ballot on the future of Kent's grammar schools. Despite lengthy campaigns throughout the region they achieved little and acknowledged as much in public on a number of occasions. However, a small group of activists continue their efforts to undermine the good work going on in all Kent's schools. Having spectacularly failed to obtain public support for their stance they have resorted to other tactics including being instrumental in disrupting the admissions arrangements for secondary pupils. This is currently causing considerable distress to pupils, parents and schools.

Very recently anti-selective campaigners have succeeded in inflicting yet another administrative burden on all schools in, I believe, every Education Authority with grammar schools. They have done this by requesting Electoral Reform (Ballot Services) to identify the size of the parental constituencies, even though they have clearly stated that campaigns will not be initiated this school year.

This futile exercise, requiring a register of parents from all affected schools, will serve only as an irritating distraction and inflict further demands on the public purse. It is nothing more than a political gesture, but one which comes at a substantial cost. The Government has recognised the need to ease the administrative burden on schools. This cynical manipulation, indeed abuse, of the legislation will add to the work of the already overloaded staffs of primary and secondary schools. At the very least, and as a matter of urgency, your Department should devise a regulation to prevent phoney applications to ERBS triggering unnecessary work for hard pressed schools. If petition organisers were required to produce 5% of an ERBS estimate of the number of signatures needed for a viable petition as against the present list of just 10 names, it would not be unreasonable.

The Government has recently acknowledged the contribution grammar schools make towards maintaining high academic standards. If further improvement is to be achieved, as the Government desires, then all schools will have to play their full part - as they are willing so to do. But they need to be certain that their future is secure. No such guarantee will exist in selective areas until the current legislation allowing opponents to initiate abolitionist campaigns year after year has been repealed.

Support Kent Schools, an organisation of 6000 parents, governors and teachers, looks to you therefore to take the necessary action to remove this Sword of Damacles. This will allow all schools to concentrate fully on what they are best placed to do - challenging their pupils to produce of their best year after year, and improving standards as demanded by both Government and tax payers.

Yours sincerely

E. A. B. Hammond

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