Richard Garner: Gove's mixed messages on selection

Asked if he was in favour of expanding selective education in areas where parents wanted it, Michael Gove famously said: "My foot is hovering over the pedal: I'll have to see what my co-driver Nick Clegg has to say."

That was just after the election. This year, he was said to have expressed support for an idea that an existing grammar school could set up a "satellite" grammar school in a town that did not have a selective school. Mr Gove's office was adamant that he had not strayed from the party line that the Government would not sanction any new selective schools.

From 1,200 state grammar schools up until the 1970s, we now have 164 remaining as the majority of state secondary schools became comprehensives. As far as direct grant schools were concerned, most went private, 45 Roman Catholic schools joined the state sector and a few closed.

I, too, have heard mutterings that some would rejoin the state if they could retain selection. The issue is likely to continue to be hotly debated within the Conservative Party.

Whether it will change its mind if it is ever given a clear mandate to run the country remains to be seen.

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