Warning over grammar school ballots 27pt, 1 deck

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BALLOTS over the future of grammar schools will lead to endless legal wrangles between warring factions of parents, Conservative peers predicted yesterday.

Speaking just before the second reading in the Lords of the School Standards and Framework Bill, Baroness Blatch, opposition spokeswoman on education, said government proposals on selection would lead to ballot rigging.

The Bill gives parents the right to petition for the end of grammar schools in areas where they remain. Though details are not included in the Bill, ministers have said that 20 per cent of eligible parents will have to petition against grammar schools to trigger a ballot.

In local authorities which are selective, all parents will have a vote. In the case of single grammar schools, parents at feeder schools will have a vote. Lord Pilkington said that in selective counties such as Kent, 50,000 signatures would be needed on a petition. "How are you going to validate the petition? How will you check the addresses? How will you check there is no duplication? Will all the signatures be legible? If a name is incorrect, the supporters of grammar schools will go to the courts and argue that the petition is invalid."

Baroness Blatch said: "The Government has adopted a most cowardly approach to the existence of grammar schools. It dare not introduce legislation abolishing them so it is letting other people do it instead."

Some grammar schools were too confident about the Bill, she warned. "The ballots will be rigged. The Bill stops grammar schools arguing their case or putting out leaflets. Teachers in comprehensives will tell their parents to vote against selection."