Minister hints at end to selection in specialist schools

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Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, yesterday hinted at action to limit the ability of specialist schools to select their pupils by ability.

Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, yesterday hinted at action to limit the ability of specialist schools to select their pupils by ability.

But he refused to bow to pressure from Labour delegates to make it easier for parents to end the status of the remaining grammar schools.

Mr Clarke told the party conference: "The 11-plus is quite the wrong way for anyone to be chosen to go to school in any way whatsoever. It is the wrong way and it does a disservice to all the children who go through the system."

He told delegates it was too divisive to remove selection at the remaining 164 state grammar schools, but hinted at action to limit the ability of specialist secondary schools to choose up to 10 per cent of pupils by "aptitude".

Ministers will publish new proposals in weeks in response to a scathing report by the all-party Commons Education Select Committee, which urged the Government to scrap the 10 per cent selection power.

The right of selection by aptitude is open to specialist arts, sports, music, modern language and technology schools.

Mr Clarke said: "I said at the National Policy Forum that we should be very careful to change the position that we had agreed in 1998 which was essentially to stop further selection but not at the same time to go back and try to reopen it in every community and in every respect.

"I know it is controversial with some colleagues in the party and I can give the assurance however that we are moving, in response to the education select committee, to reduce the aspects of selection in the system.

"We steadily have to reduce it and that is the right way for us to go."

Mr Clarke faced angry interventions from delegates urging him to scrap selection. Bruce Hogan, a delegate from the Forest of Dean, told the Education Secretary to "end forever the system of apartheid in education which limits the life ch\ances for children."

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