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Seaton
Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education, says grammar schools are more popular than ever, yet Northamptonshire Children are being denied the chance to go them in Warwickshire.

Despite the vitriol directed against them, the popularity of grammar schools is growing exponentially.

In 2007, Kent local authority had 1,232 applicants from outside the county to take the voluntary 11-plus test for a place in its grammar schools. Two years later, that number had risen to 1,810, an increase of almost 50%.

Of those 1,810 out-of-county applicants, 924 demonstrated the required standard for a grammar school place. Exact numbers are not yet available, but only around 1 in 3 of these is likely to be offered a place in the school of their choice.

Last week, grammar schools suffered another setback. Conservative-controlled Warwickshire County Council (WCC) confirmed plans to reduce the number of places available to families living less than 10 miles from its two grammar schools in Rugby, if  they live across the border in comprehensive Northamptonshire.

Some of these families have bought houses on the Northamptonshire side of the county boundary, knowing they would have access to Rugby grammar schools if their children passed the test. Their older children are already attending these schools.  Now, access for their bright young brothers and sisters may be cruelly denied.

Some of these families have bought houses on the Northamptonshire side
of the county boundary, knowing they would have access to Rugby grammar
schools if their children passed the test. Their older children are
already attending these schools.  Now, access for their bright young
brothers and sisters may be cruelly denied.

This has happened because comprehensive headteachers, aided by the
schools adjudicator and Joan Kirkbride, the Conservative councillor
responsible for schools in Northamptonshire, objected to clever
children living in their county fleeing across the border for better,
more popular schools in Warwickshire.

Earlier plans to halt this exodus were overwhelmingly rejected in a consultation. The parents' objections included:

  • Maladministration by Northamptonshire Admissions Forum
  • Misleading information in the objection to the Schools Adjudicator
  • Application of the law – Greenwich and Rotherham Judgements
  • Lowering of standards at the Rugby schools

With egg on its face as well, WCC has made minor concessions. But in
general terms, it has surrendered to anti-choice officials and
Northamptonshire Conservatives. The cabinet's decision, we are told, is
supported by a QC's legal opinion obtained by WCC.  But as this was
paid for by taxpayers, doesn't it seem strange that no-one directly
involved has been allowed to read it?

Within 24 hours of Warwickshire's decision, publication of new,
extremely complicated admission arrangements for the grammar schools
concerned (Rugby High School for girls and Lawrence Sheriff School for
boys) was already under way – a classic example of manipulative
officials and their allies working at top speed against the public
interest.

The obvious solution to this deliberately exacerbated problem would be
to increase the 94 places for 11-year-olds in each grammar school –
cater for the demand. But inflexibility and failure to plan for honest future expansion mean that both schools are crammed with sixth formers
imported from other schools. To cater for its own needs, each school
should probably have around 180 sixth formers (twice the number of
entries at 11). Lawrence Sheriff  has 327 and Rugby High School has 273.

Meanwhile, such removal of choice in the type (and ethos) of secondary
schools on offer is spreading even in Conservative local authorities.
Why?

Most observers have no doubt it is caused by David Cameron's change in
official Conservative policy. The official line is that Conservatives
will defend the grammar schools that remain, but will allow no more.

The implication – that state-funded grammar schools are somehow
politically incorrect –  has created such confusion among Conservatives
that extreme leftists, not to mention the over-powerful educational
establishment, are having a field day. Among political decision-makers,
many supporters of honest diversity and choice have been shackled or
silenced.

Few would argue about Mr Cameron's repositioning of the Conservative
Party. But helping Labour's class war and denying bright children the
best possible education for political convenience is something else.

Caring Conservatives?  Or do actions speak louder than words?

30 comments for: Access denied: Conservative-run Northamptonshire Council bans children going to good schools

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