David Cameron has written for the Mail on Sunday about grammar schools. The full article is on conservatives.com but here are a few key extracts and ConservativeHome responses:
"In eighteen years of Conservative Government, neither Margaret Thatcher nor John Major created grammar schools. That’s why Conservative MPs and candidates in areas without grammar schools do not campaign for them to be brought back."
> True, Mr Cameron but John Major’s 1997 manifesto promised a grammar school for every town. By then the Tory leadership had understood we needed a return to excellence in our schools. Michael Howard, a long-time member of the 1979 to 1997 governments and with successful grammars in his county of Kent, certainly still supports these schools and we are sorry that your office chose to silence him.
"Far from being some winning slogan, a pledge to build more grammar schools would be an electoral albatross."
> Really? A YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph found that 49% of voters supported a larger number of grammar schools. 70% of Tories are in support.
"This is a key test for our Party. Does it want to be a serious force for government and change, or does it want to be a right-wing debating society muttering about what might have been?"
> This is unworthy of you, Mr Cameron. On Thursday we published your list of other education policies and welcomed them. Of course it’s right that a one nation Conservative government will enact reforms that benefit the many, not the few but that does not mean the party has to rule out new grammar schools. There is something very Henry Ford about your Mail on Sunday article trumpeting the Tory policy that says "any individual, company, charity, church, community group, teacher or parent co-operative who wants to set up and run a school – providing they meet certain minimal standards – will be able to" whilst saying that that school can be any school but not a grammar school.
"We need to create more good school places rather than argue abut how to divide up the ones we have. The fact is, we don’t have enough and we need more. How do we do it? Not by dividing existing schools up into a thousand grammar schools and two thousand secondary moderns."
> This is a straw man argument. Who exactly is arguing in favour of the centralised state deciding that 1,000 schools should become grammars? Mainstream Conservatives are simply saying that a few more should we welcomed if that is what local parents want.
"Today, because of the way that league tables and inspections work, there is far too much teaching to the test and teaching to get children from D to C instead of stretching the brightest to get A and A star. That’s why we will reform the curriculum, exams and testing, and that’s why we want to see aggressive setting by ability – in effect, a ‘grammar stream’ in every subject, in every school."
> Good stuff. We can end on a point of agreement.
Postscript: The BBC often fails to ask ‘right-wing questions’ of Conservative politicians – defaulting instead to attacking from the left – but Andrew Marr was excellent on Sunday AM this morning. Interviewing David Willetts he championed the anger of the Conservative grassroots and noted that the only support for the new Tory position was coming from left-wing commentators. David Willetts did finish his interview on a high note by revealing that he opposed David Maclean’s attempt to exempt MPs from key Freedom of Information requirements. Mr Maclean got a nasty comeuppance on page one of the Mail on Sunday: One wife, two mistresses… and a quad bike on Commons expenses.