Third of grammars under threat

PARENTS OF school-aged children will launch campaigns today which threaten the future of grammar schools throughout England.

Campaigners in Barnet, Kent, Ripon, Sutton and Trafford are taking the first formal steps towards ending selection in nearly 50 of the country's remaining 160 grammars. They aim to use new legislation to trigger petitions for ballots on the future of the 11-plus in their areas.

Conservatives accused the Government of educational vandalism and said the ballots were open to fraud. Ministers argue that their aim is not to abolish selection for secondary schools but to give parents the choice about its future.

Parents' groups in the five areas are writing to Electoral Reform Ballot Services to discover how many signatures they will need to secure a ballot on the fate of the 11-plus in their area and which parents will be eligible to sign. Parents in Medway, Kent, meet shortly to decide whether to follow suit but are likely to postpone their challenge until next year.

Under new government rules, parents can petition for a ballot on the future of selection. If 20 per cent of eligible parents sign the petition, local parents will be balloted on whether they want to keep their grammar schools. In predominantly selective areas such as Kent all parents will have a vote. In those where only a few selective schools remain, only parents of pupils at feeder schools who regularly send pupils to grammar schools will be enfranchised.

Campaigners admit they face a difficult challenge but they believe that parents' indignation about the stress caused by selection will help them. In Ripon, North Yorkshire, which has one grammar school and one secondary modern, Debbie Atkins said: "I am very optimistic. We are not left-wing political activists. We are all parents who have had experience of the selection process. We are constantly in touch with parents who are distraught and who cannot sleep at night because they are going through it."

Anne Logan, treasurer of Kent's Stop the Eleven Plus Campaign, which has around 500 active parent members, said: "A lot of parents are concerned about the effect selection has on the self-esteem of the majority of children who do not pass the exam for grammar schools."

Parents in Barnet, north London, which has three grammar schools, will start collecting signatures today, even before they are officially told which parents are eligible.

Those in neighbouring Haringey, Enfield and Hertfordshire which send large numbers of pupils to the Barnet schools are also joining the campaign.

Pro-grammar school groups have already been formed to oppose the campaign. Eric Hammond, chairman of the Save Kent Schools group, said the ending of selection in the county could cost as much as pounds 150m. He said: "If the petition and ballot is successful, people with means will put their children into independent schools instead of grammar schools. It would be choice by the purse rather than by ability."

John Bercow, a Conservative education spokesman, said:"These schools are beacons of excellence in our education system ... We must fight to protect these prized institutions against egalitarian hooliganism."

Ministers have made it clear that they are not expecting large numbers of ballots because of the tight procedures they have established.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate / Junior C# Developer

£18000 - £25000 Per Annum + bonus and benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

Drama Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

PSHE Teacher - Cheshire West

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Teachers with a passion for PSHE neede...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits