Right of Reply: Martin Stephen

Yesterday, Gerald Kaufman MP accused some of the grammar schools in his Manchester constituency of elitism. Here, the headmaster of Manchester Grammar defends them
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The Independent Culture
THERE IS a lot of poison around. Whether it is in the educational system, as Gerald Kaufman proposes, or being poured out by Mr Kaufman himself, is a matter for debate.

Facts are wonderful things provided you can leave out the ones that hurt your argument. Do independent grammar schools in Mr Kaufman's Manchester constituency get a "disproportionate number of visits from the Royal Family"? My memory says there have been two in five years, and a lunch the Princess Royal held for one of her charities that did not include seeing the school. "In all my 29 years as an MP no member of the Royal Family has visited a state school in my constituency." Well, the Prince of Wales's visit this year was jointly to us and Ducie High in Moss Side - not strictly, of course, in Mr Kaufman's constituency.

Grammar schools are not elitist. They are specialist, a specialisation that has been practised in European lycees and Gymnasium for years. The problem was never grammar schools. It was that we consigned the 70 per cent of children who did not go to grammar schools to under-funded sump schools, and started selection too early. Secondary modern schools killed grammar schools, not the grammar schools themselves. Mr Kaufman strangely failed to point out that Manchester Grammar's fundraising means that every child who passed our examination could take his place, regardless of race, colour, creed or the social and economic standing of his parents. The significant number of his constituents with boys here have very different views to him. Elitism? Or meritocracy?

Let parents vote. When they do, I hope they ask what other country would vote to shut down what are recognised to be some of the best schools in the world.