Schools 'forced to select pupils'

The government is forcing some state schools to introduce entrance examinations if they wish to opt out of local-authority control. Teachers and educationalists fear the move is a covert attempt to bring back a grammar school system.

The Conservative-controlled Association of County Councils is to warn the House of Lords that schools are agreeing on new admission policies without the consent of parents and in contradiction of earlier promises.

Senior education officers have described the development as the 'thin end of the wedge' and believe it will lead to the wider use of 11-plus-style exams.

Last Saturday, John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, announced that three grant- maintained schools were to introduce testing. The Queen Elizabeth School in Penrith, Cumbria, will select all pupils on an entrance exam; Dame Alice Owen's School and the Queens' School, both in Hertfordshire, will chose up to half their new pupils by tests. Mr Patten described it as a 'good day for choice and diversity'.

However, neither of the Hertfordshire schools wanted to introduce testing, and it was only after objections by the Department for Education that they were included. When parents voted to opt out, it was clearly on the basis that there would be no 'change in character' at the schools, both comprehensives. But when the governors applied to the DFE for grant-maintained status - direct funding from central Government - they were told their admissions policy must be more 'objective'. The DFE agreed to allow grant-maintained status only after the schools promised to include some entrance exams.

David Bolton, head of Dame Alice Owen's School, which has 1,170 11- to 18-year-olds, said: 'The governors were very surprised that the DFE should suddenly introduce a major condition. This will have profound implications for schools in England and Wales. I hope parents will be understanding about the changes. They are not ideal, but are the best alternative available.'

Mr Bolton added that he knew of schools in Hertfordshire and London that were being asked to make similar changes by the DFE before being granted new status.

Mary Marsh, headteacher at the Queens' School, which has 1,200 11- to 18-year-olds, said: 'I was extremely surprised. The DFE insisted there should be more objectivity in our selection process.'

Mr Bolton and Mrs Marsh both insist, however, that their schools will not change their character because they will ensure that they still admit pupils with a wide range of abilities.

But Martin Rogers, of Local Schools Information, an independent body, said it was 'scandalous' that schools had changed their admissions policy without consultation with parents.

The DFE move is in line with its draft circular on admissions policy, which calls for greater objectivity when schools are over- subscribed. Schools are already allowed to select up to 10 per cent of pupils from among those who are particularly talented in art, music or sport. There are 479 grant-maintained schools and a further 213 have voted to opt out.

A DFE spokesman said that only 'significant changes', which altered the school's character, needed the approval of the minister.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific