Labour threat to super-grammar

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The Independent Online
Labour could overturn plans to build the first grammar school in Britain for over 30 years if it wins the general election.

The party yesterday pledged to review a scheme for an elite "super-grammar" for the top 5 per cent of pupils in Milton Keynes, which has just been approved by Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment.

The review would take into account two previous local consultations on the proposal, in which a majority of parents were opposed. Supporters of selection are likely to seize on Labour's pledge as evidence that the party remains antagonistic to grammar schools.

However, Labour claims a review would be in line withmaking parental wishes paramount, as the consultations revealed six in 10 object to the plan. The party said last month it would not change the status of any existing grammar school unless parents voted for it.

Proposals for a grammar school in Milton Keynes, the only part of Buckinghamshire without a grammar system, have divided parents and local politicians since the scheme was mooted 10 years ago. Government approval has come only months before a general election and weeks before the handover of control of the city from Conservative-controlled Buckinghamshire County Council to a new Labour-run Milton Keynes unitary authority, following local government reorganisation.

The Labour leadership of the new authority insists the county has no right to impose its will on a city for which it will soon have no responsibility. On Tuesday night, Milton Keynes Borough Council voted unanimously to continue to oppose the grammar school.

However, under education law, last week's go-ahead from Mrs Shephard means that the city's authority is obliged to put the plan into practice, subject to planning consent.