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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project