Howard to expand grammar schools through parental choice

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The Independent Online

Michael Howard paved the way yesterday for an expansion of grammar schools under a Conservative government.

Michael Howard paved the way yesterday for an expansion of grammar schools under a Conservative government.

The party leader said grammar schools would be allowed to expand their pupil intake or even take over struggling neighbouring schools and let them become selective.

Speaking to the National Grammar School Association, he said that parents' wishes would be "the overriding factor". "By giving parents the ability to exercise control over their children's education and by making it easier for popular schools to expand - even to take over neighbouring schools - we will give opportunities to the grammar school sector and thousands of children," he added. A party spokeswoman said later: "It will depend on whatever the parents want. If they want the school to be a grammar school, so be it. If they want it to offer a vocational education, it can."

Mr Howard's speech, to be followed by more detailed policy guidelines within the next fortnight, will ensure that selection becomes a prominent education issue in the next general election. It revived memories of the Conservatives' pledge in the 1997 election to provide "a grammar school in every town".

At present, there are 164 grammar schools in England, with about 20 of the 150 local education authorities in England retaining selection. Mr Howard, an ex-grammar school pupil, accused Labour of wanting to destroy grammar schools.

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