The union which represents more grammar school teachers than any other is to campaign against increased selection in schools.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, meeting in Torquay, Devon, heard yesterday that plans for a grammar school in every town would also create secondary moderns where standards would be low.
The union, which has 800 members in the country's 160 grammar schools and 16,000 in independent schools, voted overwhelmingly to condemn government moves to increase selection.
The Prime Minister has announced that comprehensives will be allowed to select up to 15 per cent of their pupils, and a White Paper in June will set out a range of options including the creation of new grammar schools by private companies working together with parents.
An emergency resolution to the union's annual conference called for the existing system to be maintained. Proposing the motion, Martin Kamm from John Taylor High School in Staffordshire, said selection would mean lower ability intakes in comprehensives: "It doesn't matter what you call them, they are secondary modern schools as far as parents and children are concerned."
Having started his own career in a secondary modern, he had seen the effects the 11-plus had had on pupils. "The brighter ones, when they came in, had a chip on their shoulders - they had failed. That's how they and their parents saw it," he said.
But Stephen Woodley, from the independent King's School in Canterbury, Kent, supported the Government's plans. "We should not look as if simply to be against selection at all costs is our policy," he said. "I have never thought that secondary modern schools can't work. They can work provided they have sufficient resources and sufficient support."
Peter Smith, the ATL's general secretary, said the union would now campaign against the move. "It is divisive. The real agenda is to improve the schools we have got for all the children who go to them," he said.
"There is a grave danger that if you create grammar schools what you will do is to produce secondary schools at best, sink schools at worst."
A Harris poll carried out for the association last month showed that selection was low on the public's list of priorities, he added. Nine out of ten people polled wanted better discipline, more cash for schools and more books and equipment. Fewer than half wanted more selection to raise standards, placing it tenth in rank order.
Mr Smith said eight out of ten branch secretaries in the association felt that the physical condition of schools in their areas was having an adverse effect on pupils' education. Nine out of ten said it had led to concerns about health and safety.Reuse content