Campaign against 11-plus is faltering

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The Independent Online

Parents in the campaign against the 11-plus are faltering in their fight to bring a quick end to selective schools.

Parents in the campaign against the 11-plus are faltering in their fight to bring a quick end to selective schools.

As parents in Kent suspended their efforts to hold a ballot on the future of grammar schools, those in Barnet, north London, said they would continue to collect signatures for a ballot petition but believed they had no chance of winning a vote "for years".

In Birmingham, the collection of signatures for a petition will go on, but no decision has yet been taken about whether a ballot during this school year is realistic. Dr George Parfitt, of the Birmingham group, said: "Even if we don't have a ballot this year, it will have been a learning experience."

In Trafford, Greater Manchester, however, parents are pressing ahead with a petition and hope to have enough supporters for a ballot next term. Signatures are also being collected in Sutton, Surrey.

Earlier this month, parents voted by two to one to keep the 11-plus in Ripon, north Yorkshire. Last week, the House of Lords defeated the regulations which provide for ballots on grammar schools, although ministers have said that these will be restored by the Commons.

Margaret Tulloch, of the Campaign for State Education, said: "I think the Kent group has made the right decision but this is not the end of the campaign." In Kent, which has more grammar schools than any other area, a petition calling for a ballot has attracted fewer than 7,000 of the 46,000 signatures needed.

Campaigners say that this year's timescale is too tight and they will start again in September. They argue that victory is vital because new research shows that Kent grammar schools are underperforming.

Martin Frey, of Kent's Stop the Eleven Plus campaign, said: "We are confident that we will hit the ground running in September. We have learned a lot this year: we wasted the whole of last term raising public awareness when we should have been collecting signatures. Research shows that the selective structure in Kent does damage standards."

An analysis by Professor David Jesson, of York University, measured the performance of Kent grammar schools using indicators developed by Ofsted. It showed that pupils were not making as much progress as they should in the county's selective schools.

Eric Hammond, spokesman for the pro-grammar Support Kent Schools, said: "In the interests of children in Kent, [those against selection] should call it a day. There is no desire for a change. One of the bad things about the legislation is that it keeps a sword hanging over our heads indefinitely. We should not keep schools in turmoil, wondering where they will be from year to year."

John Bercow, Tory Education spokesman, said: "There is no justification for hounding successful schools out of existence for no reason other than political dogma.

"The Government should now abandon its vindictive attack on grammar schools and withdraw immediately the regulations that allow their destruction."

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