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Seaton Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, gives a "must do better" verdict to Tory schools policy.

This week's news that, if elected, the Conservatives will open some (serious) new technology colleges will be warmly welcomed – guaranteed applause at the conference.

The (Conservative-inspired) city technology colleges have produced excellent results and continue to do so.  Compare the Conservative technology colleges' results with those of many of Labour’s academies and the difference in outcomes is stark: 40 of the latter are still classed as failing.

More worrying for the Cameron team are new figures showing applications for grammar schools.

On Saturday, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail highlighted dramatic increases in the numbers of youngsters taking the voluntary (but supposedly hated) 11-plus for a place in a grammar school.

In Warwickshire, the number of applicants for its grammar schools rose from 950 in 2007 to 1,789 in 2009. In Kent, entries increased from 9,672 in 2007 to 11,873 in 2009.

What is also remarkable about the Kent situation is the massive increase in 'out-of-county' applicants: clear confirmation that, where they can, parents are voting with their feet. Kent had 1,232 out-of-county applicants in 2007 and 1,810 in 2009 – a near 50% increase in two years.

More disturbing still are the numbers who were disappointed. Of Kent's 1,810 out-of-county applicants, 924 demonstrated that they were suitable for a grammar school. Yet only 268 of these aspiring youngsters could be offered a place in the school of their choice. 656 out-of-county applicants 'passed' the test, but there were no places for them.

Meanwhile, for unexplained reasons, places at Clarendon House Grammar School for girls in Ramsgate have been almost halved this year, from around 120 to 68. The school will not say whether that is because Clarendon House has recently 'federated' with Chatham House for boys, or in order to boost the nearby (under-performing) Marlowe Academy.

In Lincolnshire, another year-on-year rise in 11-plus entries is reported. Despite the wishes of many parents, St Bernard's Catholic Grammar School in Slough is threatened with extinction to create an
academy.

But isn't this a dismal failure by politicians, both locally and nationally?

Their failure to provide what parents want is also evident in Northern Ireland.  Against the wishes of the majority of the population, Sinn Fein and its socialist allies in Westminster have banned academic selection for their 69 grammar schools.

The response from the grammar schools has been to introduce their own 11-plus tests, albeit one version for Protestant-leaning grammars and another for Catholic-leaning ones. Now the schools charge a £35 entry fee, except for children on free school meals. Despite these obstacles, which hit the self-sufficient poor hardest, voluntary entries are reported to be not far short of 14,000.

Reaction from leading Conservative and Unionist politicians?  Total silence on the mainland and obfuscation in Northern Ireland.

Last week, Andrew Grant, the chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, criticised the Tories for expecting help from independent schools, whilst they are 'embarrassed' publicly to support them.

Sadly, it seems that political considerations have taken precedence over educational need and the wishes of many parents. And, it could be argued, the best interests of the nation.

Many parents are beginning to wonder if the political class lives in the real world.  Some have already decided that none of the major parties deserves their vote. Who can blame them for that?

33 comments for: More CTCs will be great news – but what about more grammar schools and independent schools?

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