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The basic issue is that David Cameron is not in tune with the grassroots. He believes in things that are fundamentally different from mainstream Conservatives. He'll be forgiven by enough Conservatives if he looks like he'll lead us to power but if his opinion poll ratings start to tank then everything changes. Conservative members want power and will swallow a lot in pursuit of that power but if the sacrifices are for nothing then there will be trouble.

Wonderful stuff. Well done all-another decade in opposition beckons. That's what I call success.

In the long run this is all going to be good news if Mr Cameron can take a bit of a break now to think things over and come back refreshed.

Phase One of branding the Party "David Cameron's Conservatives" was great for a while. The Party is now in 5th gear on the motorway so the foot can come off the accelerator and the driver can relax. It is time for him to chat to his passengers about what to do when they get to their destionation. Gripping the steering wheel in silence for the next three years as the passengers get restless doesn't make sense.

We pretty much all agree that existing grammar schools should stay. Personally, I would like to see them available throughout the country but know this isn't going to happen. So, the debate is about how to develop non-grammar schools, and here the leadership has not succeeded at enthusing us that they are going to take the necessary action to stand up to the out of touch educational administration of this country. Without the courage to insist that this establishment will be reformed the "debate" such as it has been is pointless.

Any tough guy can beat up his own. But can he stand up to equally tough opposition? We are beginning, tragically, to understand that the Bullingdon mind cannot do that.

Prove us wrong.

"So, the debate is about how to develop non-grammar schools"

Funnily enough, that's what the speech was about, but no, we had to concentrate on grammar schools, for the sake of ideological purity. Forward, comrades!

Henry Mayhew, like Traditinal UKIP, votes for Farage.

When this site eventually moves on it will be worth posting again.

The press haven't moved on, Tory T!

So far this row has been with other MPs.

Other than some internet posts, the grassroots have not really become engaged. They take longer to organise but the longer that the row has gone on the more likely it becomes that they will get organised and then the real trouble starts.

This was an unnecessary row.

Time for Cameron and Co to have a think over the weekend and clarify it all on Monday?

GRAHAM BRADY: On Sky this morining he was suggesting that city acadenies should be allowed to select by abilty to get bright students into the poorer areas. His reason was to raise attainment in those schools.

Now, is he saying that there are no bright pupils in the inner cities? I think not. If he is then he is a fool - which he is not.

Is he suggesting that putting high achievers into academies will push up the % A*-C? Well pretty obvious, so why say it.

Or was he sugesting that educating the more able, less able and average ability students in one school benefits all? Is that not a comprehensive school? Mmmmmmm.

One of the perceived strengths of DC was his media background. The problem is that like many new stars thrust into fame, it looks very much like he has started to believe the hype and considers himself bigger than the Party itself. If true, this is a BIG, BIG mistake.

Politicians of note have not always been liked, but they have been respected for what they have done.

Whoever leads the Conservative Party needs to concentrate on making decisions and promoting policies which may not necessarily be right for the media, but are right for the electorate. Rather than following what is in vogue, why the hell can't we have a leader who is not afraid to set the agenda and have the press follow them instead?

It must be possible to move on and have leadership from someone who at least has some style, timing and humour when it comes to playing the fool, not unlike Reagan when doing a radio sound check in 1984 said 'My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I have just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes'.

Wouldn't things be a lot more fun around here...

This has been a bizzare episode. Willetts set out what were broadly good ideas that would improve education for more people to help more people get on in the world. A deeply Conservative aim and in fact if you were to transplant his proposal into a Margaret Thatcher govt it would have been entirely in keeping. Perhaps some of the ways the story was spun fell down though and it gave an opportunity for those that want to damage the party (including the perpetually negative elements on this site who are actually UKIP supporters) to stir things. Where do we go from here. I am a big supporter of what modern Conservatism is trying to do under Cameron but I think there are some lessons. If it is the case that some people beleive there should be some sort of clause 4 moment style of creative division, I think this is a mistake. We have been well ahead in the polls and yes the party does need to become more positive about change BUT in industry we did this by taking people with us, by explaining the importance of what we are doing and how it will succeed. That is a much more Conservative way. Maybe Labour sort of respected the statist type conflict of clause 4 repeal but in a party of Churchill and Thatcher, we will just end up with too many people fighting on the beaches. The answer is to calm down and take people forward as a team again. We can win the next election, lest get on with it,

Matt Wright

The Tory party is a lost cause. It may be time for Cameron to come out for PR and be done with it. Let the delusional right who can't understand the concept of concentrating on anything other than what are fringe issues to the majority of the country sink or swim on their own.

Not again. I can't believe how long this has gone on for. The sooner Andy Coulson starts controlling our communications the better. If we just let local people vote for the education systems they want, all of this could have been avoided.

This whole episode has been a total disaster. It has not in fact been a revelation of muddled educational thinking, but of Dave's complete lack of experience at this level and inability to conduct a serious strategy. What I want to know is who will get us out of this mess when we lose the next election, which we certainly will do, maybe even as soon as October.

"Whoever leads the Conservative Party needs to concentrate on making decisions and promoting policies which may not necessarily be right for the media, but are right for the electorate. Rather than following what is in vogue, why the hell can't we have a leader who is not afraid to set the agenda and have the press follow them instead?"

Hmm, yes, this also applies to site like COnservative Home. Rather than following what it says is in vogue with the grass roots, the leader should come up with policies that are right for the country, rather than a vocal proportion of one party.

Cameron does NOT have a media background - it was supposedly Corporate affairs, ie lobbying politicians over Digital Broadcasting - ONDigital which turned out to be Carlton's undoing and led to its takeover by Granada.

He was simply a lobbysist after 1994 to help Carlton with political and regulator access.....

Funnily enough, that's what the speech was about, but no, we had to concentrate on grammar schools, for the sake of ideological purity. Forward, comrades!

Posted by: DavidDPB | June 01, 2007 at 09:44

Actually no. The speech painted Grammar Schools as an obstacle to social mobility and Willetts knew that to be an untruith

the leader should come up with policies that are right for the country, rather than a vocal proportion of one party.

Pity we cannot re-run the Bromley by-election and see if turnout improves !

Greg, people have been bleating on that the conservative Party is a lost cause for as long as they have been out of power but they are still there.

With a serious deficiency of alternative right-wing & mainstream choices within the Party portfolio, wouldn't it be better for us all to start pushing the changes we now want from the Party to make it work, rather than just preaching doom.

Yes, things don't look too good, yes, there needs to be a change, yes, we actually need to be led. But for goodness sake, can everybody stop taking this whole thing so damned personally and start to remember that we can positively influence change in the Party as well as negatively. (which seems to be the overriding aim for many bloggers on CH at this moment in time)

So called 'fringe' issues are issues nonetheless because they are real for somebody. The Parliamentary Party must reconnect and involve everyone and it doesn't have to replicate Blair to do it.

Education is always going to be an emotive subject just because so many people use their own experience as a benchmark. Create policies which actually reflect the possibilities in the experiences of others and the benefits will start to come rolling in.

What should we learn from this? That Cameron, for all his talking the talk, is no Blair. How so? Because Blair (and Campbell), in opposition, would never have made this balls-up. If they had planned to face someone down, they'd have done just that - they would have *planned* it. And the planning would have entailed two main elements: 1.) that they would have known they were going win before they started & 2.) that the target they were aiming to knock over 'deserved' to be knocked over (in the sense that doing so would add to New Labour's overall electoral allure). Cameron comprehensively on both counts.

Cameron has: annoyed people who didn't need to be annoyed; won over no new friends; given comfort & cheer to Labour when they really didn't need any; paraded chronic, toxic disunity (which the lickspittles on this site will blame on the followers, rather than the leaders - which is about as dumb as Chris Patten blaming, oh, Bill Cash for us losing in 1997 rather than Major, Heseltine & Clarke); and worst of all, this entire episode has illustrated all too clearly Cameron's most fatal, unBlair-like flaw: his arrogance & complacency.

The Leader certainly didn't intend to wander into this fight (which, since he ended up in it, was in itself a sign of his lack of strategic nous & grip), but once he did, he petutantly snapped at those *he* was fighting (they were 'delusional' &c), he allowed Labour to silently wax as we fell out (and on the subject which they, rightly, enjoy most: anything that casts Cameron's OE status into sharp relief, cf. the infamous 'Today' interview), and, insensibly, he and his spinners started *boasting*. That this was a fight they were going to win, and that this then proved how tough they were, and how they were manhandling an idiot party in the C21st. Then (and this is where the absence of a Mandelson/Campbell tactician hurts us most), Osborne went ahead, despite, no, *heedless* of this fuss and delivered that moronic 'heir to Blair' speech. Thereby compounding all the feelings of alienation and resentment that have fuelled this row.

We have our best chance in what will be almost 20 years of winning the next election. Cameron, as this, minor, utterly self-inflicted incident shows, is not in Brown's street fighting class. We should be very worried, as Cameron shows no signs of being able to learn from his mistakes (that's the arrogance factor), nor any appreciation that he needs to (that's the complacency factor). Finally - and sorry for the repetition - anyone who thinks that having spent a fortnight discussing any aspect of state education does our Eton educated leader any good whatsoever is living on another planet. One populated largely by Old Etonians and a few Pauline hangers-on. This, unfairly but actually, is Cameron's achilles heal. And the people round him who insist to each other that 'class doesn't matter' and that the public no longer get exercised by eg an Old Etonian sneeringly talking about 'grammars' are kidding only themselves.

"The speech painted Grammar Schools as an obstacle to social mobility "

The vast proportion, and indeed most important part, of the speech was on ideas that could help all schools, including laying the ground for the potential introduction of a voucher system.

But no, it's all about narrow ideological purity and the commitment to something that hasn't been there for 30 years. That's the most important thing. Another glorious decade of opposition is within our grasp; we just need one more push.

Ahem: "Cameron failed comprehensively on both counts".

What a dreadful episode.

First Willets tries to play the radical moderniser and offends three quarters of the party.

Then a talented shadow minister looses his job.

Now we have a fudged compromise that even John Major would be embarrassed by. It pleases neither modernisers, who think Cameron has lost his nerve, nor traditionalists who are fed up with the continual ditching of popular policies just for the sake of being seen to change.

Thank goodness the other two parties are both in a tired shambles, so we don't look too bad in comparison.

What a fiasco......

"Wonderful stuff. Well done all-another decade in opposition beckons. That's what I call success."

Seeing as the polls showed grammar schools to be popular I don't follow your logic.

"Funnily enough, that's what the speech was about, but no, we had to concentrate on grammar schools, for the sake of ideological purity. Forward, comrades!"

If Willetts hadn't criticised them nobody would have said anything. He was effectively asking for trouble.

But no, it's all about narrow ideological purity and the commitment to something that hasn't been there for 30 years. That's the most important thing. Another glorious decade of opposition is within our grasp; we just need one more push.

Posted by: DavidDPB | June 01, 2007 at 11:15

With one of the worst Education districts in England - worse that Haringey or Tower Hamlets, and very high degrees of urban poverty, and having had 5 years of private companies running schools this area needs rapid solutions rather than airy fairy proposals from someone who has put his daughters into London selective schools.

It needs instant shake-up not simply spending £400 million on rebuilding ALL secondary schools as PFI schools as is underway.

This area is sinking fast - it has few fee-paying alternatives, no public schools, but a major metropolitan district sinking with new private Muslim schools opening all the time so they can escape from the sink schools and have single-sex education

So ACT, is there a suggestion coming then?

Yes, stop spitting at your own side. And in this the leader has been far, far more guilty than non-entities like you and me posting on websites.

I think that the commentators who wish to caricature elements of the party as ideological dinosaurs and those who feel that Cameron is steering us towards the rocks should pause and draw breath.

The membership of the party is much more pragmatic and forward thinking than some people would like to think. DC is well aware of this having benefited from the vast bulk of their votes in the leadership election having stood on a promise of change.

This debate over grammar schools has come at precisely the right time. The relationship between a leader (political or otherwise) and the organisation they lead does not come perfectly formed out of the box. Both need to find the limits of that relationship and the areas of ease and comfort.

I am confident that Brown will not risk an early election (tempting fate I know) so we have some time to get into our flow. We have made consistent progress in the polls and the bit of pain that we are going through now will help to make sure that our message delivery and party cohesion is slick going into the next election.

Nice. Perhaps a positive change in approach at the top would give us all time off for good behaviour.

The best way out of this would be for Cameron & co to say that it will be up to local communities whether they want more grammar schools or not.


Education Bradford has produced a free 16-page full colour newspaper for all pupils to take home. It promotes good news stories from schools,...

Serco Learning, the education arm of Serco Government Services, signed a 10 year contract with Bradford Council for the provision of education support services to the district's schools. Education Bradford started operating in 2001 when central educational staff and assets transferred to Serco.


Bradford today lay mired in the bottom 20 of the country's 148 local education authorities in league tables of secondary school pupils' performance in the Key Stage Three exams in 2006.

The district has fallen two places compared to 2005 to be ranked 133rd in the country with the number of pupils achieving the target Level Five grade or above in the three core subjects of English, maths and science still falling well short of the national averages despite a marked improvement in maths and a smaller gain in science.

In maths, 69 per cent of Bradford pupils gained or exceeded the target mark compared to the national average of 77 per cent; in science the Bradford figure was 61 per cent compared to a 72 per cent national average, and in English it remained at 64 per cent compared to the national average of 73 per cent.

However, there was good news for two Bradford schools, Wyke Manor and Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College, which have been named in the top 100 most improved schools in the country, along with Spen Valley Sports College in Liversedge.

Feversham College, Bradford, Ermysted's Grammar, Skipton, and Heckmondwike Grammar are also ranked in the top 100 table in the "valued added" rating which measures pupils' improvement between Key Stage Two and Key Stage Three.

In the last five years, Education Bradford said the district's pupils have made improvements in excess of the national average in English, maths and science although it argued that the DfES league tables are not an accurate measure of improvement.

John Gaskin, Education Bradford's managing director, said: "These results show that the rate of improvement in Bradford over the first five years of our contract is greater than the national performance and schools should be congratulated on this.

"There is still work to be done, particularly in English, and we are discussing how best to provide additional support for schools in this area."

Councillor Colin Gill, the Council's executive member for Children's Services went as far as describing the results as "fantastic".

All of Bradford's neighbouring LEAs performed better in the league tables. North Yorkshire is ranked 12th in the country; Calderdale 58th; Kirklees 94th and Leeds 95th.


North Yorkshire is ranked 12th in the country;

North Yorkshire has Grammar Schools

The other thing we should learn from it, or rather, from how Cameron & Osborne's hero Blair dealt with opposition, is, employ the right people. I'd respectfully suggested that a disgraced tabloid hack who bugged the phones of members of the royal family is not the right person. Campbell was a politico pretending to be a hack: Coulson will prove to be a hack pretending to be a politico. And as a sign of the complacent arrogance attending Cameron, consider only the way Coulson has been 'appointed'. A vast salary, unapproved by the Board. That way, historically, trouble has lain. And it's certainly no way to kick off what's meant to be an era of new, improved spin.

Everything for the best in the best of all possible worlds, eh James?


Firstly, Mr Willetts failed to understand the pensions issue. All he grasped was the detail - I should know, I was on his panel for two years. Secondly, he has failed to understand that Grammar Schools educated many, many, of the most worthwhile leaders of today's Britain, a large number of whom came from most deprived backgrounds. How dare he insult their achievement and our intelligence with his pathetic wittering about the schools being barriers to social mobility.

Secondly, you are correct that the debate should (for the moment) be about the schools that the majority of the country now have to go to. But you fail to realise that neither Dave nor David have have been able to grasp that the professional educationalists who control schools need to be retired first. They are very much like the European Commission (to get me started!). I doubt DC's courage and DW's ability to grasp a problem.

I am afraid the solution is to delete the 20th Century's experiment with the disaster of socialism and build on the achievements of the Victorians. I know that could do with some packaging! National, Board, religious and charitable schools all should compete with each other for pupils (carrying a state cheque of course).

The Victorians built their way out of slums through local action (particularly in the cities of the midlands and the north). We can do it again and regenerate those areas at the same time.

ACT, Adam, Uncle Tom Cobley: oh for God's sake stop squabbling like children.

We've ended up with a policy which is sellable, and perhaps not exactly by copy-book process, but let's just leave it at that, shall we? Willetts had a perfectly good suite of ideas to float, which got completely swamped because someone decided to sex-up the pre-briefing, but let's just leave it to Coulson from now on.

Sadder and wiser and all that...

So could it true that the Conservative Party have applied to the Electoral Commision to change their name to 'Grammar Schools R'us' or could it just be an optimistic rumour circulated by UKIP supporters in the forlorn hope that one issue politics is now proven as the way to go forward?

William, with the best will in the world, I'd rather you'd not, pretty pompously, accuse the rest of us of 'squabbling'. I wasn't. I was merely expressing what I felt about this recent fuss. What do you suppose the point of comments threads on political websites if not, uh, to discuss political issues?

Policy Dog, what would you suggest a 'no policy' party should call itself? Nb 'Lib Dem' is already taken.

William, please correct me if I'm wrong, but that sounds very much like the 'lie back and think of England' approach to 'non-entities' as ACT so elequently labelled us?


im pleased that dc has backed down but this has not been a succes it has been a knock on the road to number 10, we cant aford to have another grammsgate or els oposition beckons and that is unacceptible

ACT, that's an interesting one. I understand that the general view is that you'll only be a Lib Dem until you've been robbed. I suppose in this case, we would call it the 'waiting for some experience of real life party'.

As he's got prior "form" perhaps Andy Coulson should start by bugging David Willets office from now on. At least that would give everyone a bit of warning before he unleashes his next "brain wave".

Richard - Grammar Schools are popular but secondary moderns aren't. A poll which asks about both is a fair poll, not one which concentrates on the former.

- Grammar Schools are popular but comprehensives aren't

Hmmn, 'we don't like the finding of the opinion poll that disagrees with us, so we'll claim that the question asked is invalid (because the public is too stupid to understand its implications)'. Possibly, possibly not.

Comprehensives are more popular than Secondary Moderns, the problem you have with grammars is that they are a short term vote winner. Those upwardly mobile parents who find their offspring languishing in a secondary modern will turn against us with a vengeance. What price short term victory? One not worth paying, that's what.

Those upwardly mobile parents who find their offspring languishing in a secondary modern will turn against us with a vengeance.

Well put them in an Inner City Bradford Comprehensive and watch them completely ignore you as a political party - that is the fate of Conservatives in Bradford and Leeds where they have few MPs and a rainbow coalition to stay in the council

"The membership of the party is much more pragmatic and forward thinking than some people would like to think - "

yep .

This endless reviling of own side is beginning to get on my nerves .

There are many lessons to be taken from this, and they need to be learned and acted on very quickly. This has been a total foul up, all the more frustrating because it was avoidable, unnecessary and has obscured an otherwise sensible set of policy suggestions. The weaknesses in the position on grammar schools have always been entirely predictable.

Thankfully this did not happen in an election season - our results might have been very different if this had blown up 6 weeks ago.

If Andy Coulson can ensure we have an effective machine that will ensure consistent and coherent strategies on policy, direction and communication are developed and implemented, he will be worth his reputed £400K - or most of it anyway.

There is no appetite in the party to do anything other than support the leadership to victory. But leadership involves a two-way relationship. It's not simply "I lead - you follow." We cannot afford another episode like this.

I hope that there will not be a Day 18. Any further recriminations (inevitable when Parliament returns from its break) should if possible be conducted in private. A period of quiet on the policy front would now be sensible so that we can all focus on Clunker McCavity and his wannabe deputy dawgs.

If there was a failure here, it was the failure of leadership to understand quite how gleefully self-destructive some core "supporters" are. They value intellectual purity before the messy reality of power. Thank you for screwing this up - you know who you are.

Cameron and Co are now going to have to tread very carefully, looking over their shoulder at disloyal members and MPs, and will find it much harder to put forward policies that the voters we need will support.

We could lose a lot of seats at the election after any reintroduction of grammars. That may not be fair but it's politics and you have to take on board the electoral implications of your policies. Principles are nothing compared to being attacked by reality.

Anyway, do you really think that inner city Bradford voters are thinking 'if only the conservatives would bring in grammar schools I'd vote for them next time'? That's a pipe dream.

One of the most disappointing aspects of this unseemly mess is the glee with which so many conservatives have rounded upon David Cameron; almost as if they were eagerly awaiting the very first opportunity to do so.

This is the trouble of announcing 'policy' until the various forums have reported, and have been discussed ( by the party, etc). Now, i'm very hacked off with DC at the moment, but it has not been all bad. The rebranding is a success; and he has 'changed the tone/perception' of the Party. Poll success has been 'consistent' and media coverage better than in the past. Where DC has come a cropper is: making inane decisions on sackings- Mercer,now Brady; badly thought through policy explanation and presentation; failing to engage the entire Parliamentary Party; having sub-standard staff. He needs to sort this out- and pronto.

Can we, pace 'True Blue', please drop this trope that, when things go wrong, it's the followers' fault, not the leader's responsibility? He gets the credit, he takes the blame. If Cameron's a sunshine only leader, he should have told us.

Now that there has been a partial acceptance of the place Grammar Schools have in real educational terms,it is time to put all this behind us.Let us hope that the leadership have accepted that they must take the Party along with them on the road to success.Policies need to be well thought out before lauching into them for the sake of attempting to score a political point as was done on this issue.The only part of David Willetts speech which we could disagree with was the reference to Grammar Schools and that would have been better left unsaid as it has caused this rift within the Party. A lesson must be learnt from this and then to move on from here.To continue with this debate will only cause futher damage to the Party.I now hope that we can pull together and recover from this situation and go forward to victory.What it does show is that we need some more 'street fighters'selected as candidates in the hope that there is a broader base of MP's in the next Tory Government.

Coulson doesn't take over until July 9th.

He should be in there Monday!

Cameron & Osborne et al have been living on the seat of their pants since December 2005 - no proper media team, relying on their own instincts without a proper director of media operations.

That's fine if your planting trees in a south London garden or riding with huskies, but when it comes to projecting policy coherently and cogently - well, we've seen what's happened.

Hopefully when Cameron returns from Crete he'll make exactly clear what this policy is (Willetts looks lost), then button it until Coulson gets to grips with the Tories' shambolic media operation.

The best thing Coulson could do is to tell Cameron, Osborne et al to concentrate on the three things the electorate ACTUALLY want to hear us talk about:

1) Europe.

2) Crime.

3) Immigration.

Radical idea, isn't it? Concentrate on the issues that, no only do the electorate actually worry about - creeping EU bureacratisation, the crime epidemic, our porous borders - all issues which, happily, we are seen to be the firmest on and which we are united on.

Or we could continue having arcane discussions about the minute details of education policy in public.

Andy D - Yea, like we all want to see the Country get trashed by another 4 years of Labour. If Cameron wanted to be allowed to gaff and for everyone to pick him up and say there, there, mummy (party) kiss it better, he should have signed up to play-school and not to run for Prime Minister.

Our borders are not porous: they are wide open (unless of course you hold the VC in which the door is slammed in your face).

"Those upwardly mobile parents who find their offspring languishing in a secondary modern will turn against us with a vengeance."

Those who have been educated in a grammar school are here and now turning against the Conservative Party.

And what about those at the very bottom of the economic pile – overwhelmingly they want to have the grammar school option – don’t they count?

The problem it seems to me is that DC is not a born leader and has never tried and tested himself outside the cosy confines of West London and limited lobbying. Forget the OE business - there are plenty of OE leaders of high calibre –DC is not one of them.

So where do we go from here? Will DC learn? He is keen enough on special schools for children like his son – very understandable – can he not extend the logic?

Lindsay, he's clearly not that keen on special schools for the majority either or I would not have had to write my piece on Schools Transport in CH's 'Your Platform' yesterday.

"The speech painted Grammar Schools as an obstacle to social mobility and Willetts knew that to be an untruith...
...If Willetts hadn't criticised them nobody would have said anything. He was effectively asking for trouble."

Willets had the awful cheek to point out the fact that across the nation as a whole 14% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, whereas in areas where the grammar schools survive, the figure is 12%. However,only 2% of the grammar school children are eligible for free school meals.

Nation : 14%
GS Areas: 12%
Grammar schools: 2%

Clearly, obviously, Grammar Schools are not representative of their areas. Either poor people are genetically stupid or the selection process is flawed, but whichever it is GS are no bloody good for social mobility, and/or no bloody good for bright but poor children.

And we have had nearly three weeks of fury because people wont accept the emperor has no clothes.

Willets had the awful cheek to point out the fact that across the nation as a whole 14% of pupils are eligible for free school

Check your facts...Willetts now admits that the figures are flawed and drawn from The Sutton Trust.......Free School Meals are NOT available to families with household incomes above £14.400, not to any family receiving Tax Credits or other Benefits.....so how this "eligibility" was compiled is moot.

Also it is highly likely that anyone eligible for free school meals is most likely in a non-working household. We should recall at these levels of income £14.400 a graduate would be repaying student debt.

The calculation is drivel - since in areas with high take-up of Free School Meals there are no Grammar Schools - usually there are no shops either

Since you're so convinced by statistics Jon, what evidence do you have that what you call 'intelligence' is evenly distributed accross income groups? Most people surely would accept - as one of those, 'life's tough' lessons - that cognitive ability is fundamentally unequally distributed over the socio-economic spectrum.

Pupils from less well-off backgrounds are significantly underrepresented at the country's top 200 state secondary schools (6% of schools) according to a study by the Sutton Trust based on data provided by the National Foundation for Educational Research, published today (Monday October 10th).

The study found that only 3% of the students at those schools qualify for free school meals compared to a national average of 14.3%, and a rate of 12.3% in the postcode sectors of those schools....

The data in the report relate to 2003, the latest year available, and were supplied by the National Foundation for Educational Research from the National Pupil Database

the report says much of this difference can be explained by the fact that grammar schools are sited in more affluent areas. The average gap - at just under 10 percentage points - between school and area FSM rates is found to be the same for both the top comprehensives and grammar schools.

The Data is 48 MONTHS out of date and applies to Comprehensives just as much as to Grammar Schools.....it just happens that of the Top 200 State Schools 161 are Grammar Schools ergo only 39 of the Top 200 State Schools are Comprehensive


Your shallow assessment of what is going on here is about as useful as Willetts unnecessary and damaging speech.

Education is one of the five most important policy areas to voters (according to Mori this month) and to have presented such a ham-fisted, inconsistent, incomplete, contradictory set of proposals was lunacy.

What is delusional is to think that it wasn't.

Dont take my word for it - just check the papers assessment. They are not saying the grassroots are undermining the leadership. They are saying that Cameron, Osborne and Willetts are causing utter confusion.

They provide the message to the vast majority of voters not we few on here and the message is that they couldn't organise a party in a brewery!

So don't whinge at us, whinge at


Do what many of us have done and complain bitterly about the naive amateur perfomances of the so called leaders of our party in a hope that they finally get the message and stop playing kindergarten politics.

I just hope Coulson can knock that lot into shape. Otherwise I agree Labour will get back in.

You're wrong about that Jon. Grammar Schools have only survived where Tory-controlled and therefore richer areas have kept them. The more Grammar Schools there are the more poor children would be at them.

Also, don't forget that the campaign by leftie teachers and educationalists to stop punishment in schools, STOP, has damaged the chances of poor children getting a good enough education pre-11 to get into grammar schools because bullies control classrooms. Poor kids are not thick, the whole system has been corrupted by subversives. It makes me and most other conservatives very, very angry. Luckily I have been able to buy my children out of the hell-hole of sitting with bullies every day.

Free school meals are available only to children whose parents/guardians are in receipt of one or more of the following benefits:


Income Support

Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance

Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

Families in receipt of Child Tax Credit will also qualify provided that (a) they are not entitled to Working Tax Credit, and (b) their annual income, as assessed by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs does not exceed £14,495 as at 6 April 2007 (subject to annual review).

Guarantee element of State Pension Credit

No other benefits qualify for free school meals.

"Thank you for screwing this up - you know who you are."

If David Willetts had stayed well aware from the grammars issue this would never have happened.

"And we have had nearly three weeks of fury because people wont accept the emperor has no clothes."

Willetts' evidence was always going to be disputed especially bearing in mind the successful selective system in Northern Ireland. It would have been best if he had steered clear of the subject, nothing needed to be said. Had there been no mention of grammars there would have been no dispute.

"Those upwardly mobile parents who find their offspring languishing in a secondary modern will turn against us with a vengeance."

I have children at both Grammar School and Secondary School.

NONE of my children are languishing anywhere. They are all doing well in the schools that provide THEM with the best education. The Secondary School has streaming to support those who have better than average academic abilities.

I certainly wouldn't be in a rush to change the schools any of them attended.

But as a 'possible' Conservative voter I am no longer sure that I can vote for THIS Conservative Party because it seems committed to providing a one-size fits all education that suits no-one.

How often do I need to renew my claim for free school meals?

Entitlement to Free School Meals are reviewed every six months. The school will send you a pre-printed form about three weeks before your entitlement is due to expire. You need to return the form to school by the date shown in order for your claim to continue. If you fail to renew on time your entitlement will expire and you will have to pay for any meals taken until such time as you are able to provide the necessary evidence. Claims will not be backdated.

Free School meals

Free School Meals in Hull

What type of meal will children receive?
Pupils may choose from a range of food items up to the value approved by the Local Education Authority. Because we want to encourage a nutritious and healthier diet pupils are limited to: one carton/bottle/canned drink, one potato snack crisp type product and one dessert.

Every year, you will get a green renewal form which you will need to complete and return. If you don’t you may lose your eligibility to free school meals.

Northants Council

How will the school know my child does not have to pay for school meals?

The schools will be informed directly by the Free School Meals team that your child/children can have a school meal free of charge.

Children attending secondary schools will be issued an ID card by the Free School Meals team, which they will need to take to their canteen.

So the way to find out which children get Free School Meals is to ask other children in the canteen who has the Card .....no wonder so few claim them

I was a Governor in my local Infant School for 5 or 6 years.

We always had real problems because though X% of children were entitled to Free School Meals because of their relatively deprived family backgrounds, only Y%, a much smaller number, would ever claim.

Therefore when our school was compared with other schools in terms of performance, we were always compared with schools which had a FSM level of Y% and therefore always appeared to be performing badly.

It is a very bad indicator indeed. It is like asking families in a school to identify which ones have an abusive parent so that the school can be compared like for like. It will never happen.

I would imagine it is even worse in Secondary education because of the Peer pressure.

Well its seems Dave has his Clause 4 whether he wanted it or not.....

Now he's got to win, which is slightly harder now than if he had picked the right fight in the right way.

At some point he's going to have to come out of the bushes and say something. When that happens we'll have the true measure of him.

ALL children should be provided with free school meals to make them inclusive as in my day...why should children be stigmatised as poor by virtue of their school meal ?

Oliver Arthurs at 12.57 - you must be joking about number one on your list?! The last thing the voters want to hear about is Europe. At least grammar schools is in line with a general interest in how we are going to improve secondary education! Thanks to the Grieve compromise, we do now have a possible way forward, but my goodness someone should stop Willetts making policy speeches for a while! Perhaps with Coulson in charge, we can look forward to an absence of policy and a concentration on the things that matter - lurid tales of personal malfeasance! I look froward to the first picture of Gordon Brown with a line of coke under his nose...didn't someone in the Tory party get done this way by some scumbag tabloid editor?

How do the pronouncements on grammar schools by Cameron and Willetts tie in with localism?

Why should the State be providing anyone with a Free School Meal?

Surely it would be better to make sure that parents in circumstances where they cannot afford a good meal a day for their children are provided with sufficient income to be able to do so?

Otherwise the vast majority who do not need a Free School Meal are having one provided at great cost to the Tax Payer when said Tax Payer is quite able to decide what his children should have for lunch himself.

Not only that, but a hugh organisation is then required to feed every child, as if we were at war or living through a famine or national disaster. I'd have thought the idea of Free School Meals for all would be a socialist not a conservative proposal.

Seems to me reading through comments that there are a few posters (with many posts) gleeful at anything which hurts Cameron, many who believe selection and strongly defend grammers and the rest who want a clear policy.

Regarding Grammars and those who don't like the term "delusional". Sorry but it is delusional to think we will be able to revert to grammars in every LEA system (I think 3000 plus grammars were abolished).

I fully support selection either within or in the choice of schools and think that increased selection by aptittude whether academic, practical or whatever else is the likely outcome of the Willets/Cameron prescription, but grammars are not the solution to the biggest problem in education which is the 75% or more who wouldn't go to grammar schools - all this argument is about an education system focussed on the bright and able. Thats why Grammar schools started being abolished two decades after the Butler Act - they didn't meet the needs of most children, I wish there was as much heat and light displayed in facing up the educational needs of the majority of our children.

Its the ones failed by the system we see displayed on Big Brother, who attack the homes of paeditricians because they think that means paedophile, who form the majority of welfare dependents. Grammars will do nothing to address their needs - better primaries might, better school discipline might, better teaching methods might...

"Either poor people are genetically stupid or the selection process is flawed"

In purely statistical terms, the first is true - in a modern society intelligence
is at a premium (brains rather than brawn) and there's a significant statistical correlation between intelligence and prosperity, and moreover the intelligence
of the child is partly inherited from its parents.

But it is only a statistical correlation. If it was a rigid link then there'd be no
point in trying to pick out the bright children who pop up in poor backgrounds
and offering them opportunities to use their higher intelligence: we could just
say "poor equals stupid", and send all the poor children to the same school where they could be educated in a way that suited their lower intelligence.

Is the selection process flawed? Yes, I think probably it has become flawed, because with so few places now available in academically selective schools
the clever and competent middle class parents have had a stronger incentive
to learn how to play the system to the advantage of their children.

This is hilarious: Has anyone read David Willetts' answers to ten questions, on Saturday 26th May? You scroll down CH to get to that date.

F**k me sideways with a shovel! Brings back all my memories of being on the pensions panel. F**k.

I am going to have a lie down and don't plan to waste any more of your time with comments on this thread. By the way, he sends his children to private school apparently.

Response to above, people always imagine they will get the best deal, that their children are clever dears who will get into the grammar system, they will say that they want grammars accordingly.

When they realise that their little dears are not clever enough and are put in a secondary modern they will change their tune.

This is the point so, for crying out loud. please think ahead. Short termism is not the answer.

"what evidence do you have that what you call 'intelligence' is evenly distributed accross income groups?"

I'm not a ressearch scientist, but from Willets' original speech:

"Dr. Leon Feinstein measured the basic cognitive abilities of young children aged 22 months and tracked what happened to them. He found that the cognitive skills of a low ability child from a high income background gradually improved relative to the performance of a high ability child from a low income background. If you think of this as two curves, the performance of the high ability low income child declines while the performance of the low ability high income child improves. The two curves cross over long before the age of 11.

He also mentions that High-ability children (measured in terms of their Key Stage 2 score) on FSM child has a 32% of passing the 11+ , while a non-FSM high ability child has a 60% chance. (A. Atkinson, P. Gregg, B. McConnell, 'The result of 11 plus selection; An investigation into opportunities and outcomes for pupils in selective LEAs', April 2006, Working Paper No. 06/150, CMPO).

Maybe you're right and there is a natural 'darwin-esque' difference, but good luck trying to sell grammar schools on the basis that poor people are too stupid to get into them!


You have shown with your posts is that families on several kinds of benefits are eligible for FSM and that families have to fill in a form to inform the school of their conditions in order to claim FSM.


the only way this helps the pro-GS case is if GS have a massively higher percentage of families who claim working tax credits? Is there any evidence of this?

Some comments on this thread have said that the speech was about making worse schools better. I contest that claim. The speech was actually about social mobility and how Grammar Schools are a barrier to that. The fact that the claims are based on very spurious foundations is beside the point.

I'm being boring, I know, but it's Friday afternoon and it's hot, so here goes - there's one more difference between, Dave, Leader of the Opposition, and 'he'll go on to win 3 elections with thumping majorities in a row' Tone. If this kerfuffle *had* happened on Campbell and Mandelson's watch, 94-97, where would Blair have been? He's have been seen, that's where - he'd have dashed out, taken the fight to the other (factional) side & made himself, and his 'strength' and 'dynamism' the centre of the story. Where has Cameron been? On holdiday, skulking. No heir to Blair he.

Oh for god's sake move on.

Can't someone start a discussion about the scandal of the Smith Institute and the sudden letter from Paul Myners, attempting to cover up a fraudullent payment from the Treasury. This is Gordo's slush fund, potentially his bunker gotterdammerung.

Get real, eviscerate the enemy.

Peter Farrington,

But the statistics that I (and Willets) were using were FSM eligibility, not FSM take-up.

I would think education policy would be essential to our chances of winning the next election. The leadership dragged this out by ignoring the Party, announcing policy which clearly wasnt thought out properly then insulting the critics when the Party doesnt agree with the new policy.

Willetts was asking for this. His pathetic showing on Newsnight trying to justify the new policy as if the new policy included Griweves' comments, was wierd. Our new policy was a complete barrier to the creation of any new Grammar Schools, without condition. Its a U-turn, and a poor one at that.

Only another 11 days of this and we can turn it into a horror movie.

And to think there are still people who think Cameron will easily dispose of Gordon Brown!

Brown is going to have these kids for lunch, and then some.

"Response to above, people always imagine they will get the best deal, that their children are clever dears who will get into the grammar system, they will say that they want grammars accordingly.

When they realise that their little dears are not clever enough and are put in a secondary modern they will change their tune."

I have children at both Grammar and Secondary Schools and I am very happy so your argument does not stack up.

"But the statistics that I (and Willets) were using were FSM eligibility, not FSM take-up."

FSM eligibility is not known. A leaflet is sent out to people who can CLAIM if they want and they may or may not be eligible. There are poor children in my daughter's Grammar School. There are well of children in my other daughter's Secondary School.

That more relatively well off children get to Grammar School mostly shows that more relatively well off parents support their children's education.

As usual the correct response is to change the attitudes of those parents who do not support their children's education not penalise those who do. The latter is socialism.

And now, opening for Gordon Brown; IT'S THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY!!!

Peter Farrington - you are one person, and one who is a conservative voter in a current grammar area, you are not the voter who may switch to us because of grammars, there are so many who do not understand the reality that we will lose many many votes when that reality hits, including our current vote.

He can quite easily give up voting for us - as plenty of Tories who live outside the few remaining grammar school areas can too. Tories who don't get Toryism from the Tory leadership don't need to bother voting. After all, if the choice is between Brown's take on Blairism and Cameron's, why care?

I am a long term Labour voter who has so far voted Conservative once for Ann Widdecombe because she at least seems to have principles.

I may not vote Conservative again. I'd have thought that the Conservative's needed votes like mine?

What bothers me more than Grammar schools themselves is the philosophical rejection of selection by academic ability for a more highly academic environment. If the Conservatives do not stand for helping people to excel - and brainy children in a comprehensive system do not excel, they are Geeks! - then I don't see that I want to vote for them when Ann Widdecombe stands down.

They seem, at the moment (to me), to merely stand for gaining power at any cost, and rejecting Conservatism as a philosophy. The Blue Labour jibe seems to me to have some content. I don't want any more years of any sort of Labour government - New or Blue. I want proper Conservatism - libertarian, choice-oriented, smaller state, lower tax. If that is not what Cameron stands for, and I can't see that he does, then I don't see how I can vote at all - I am disenfranchised. I just have a choice of two types of socialism.

"(DC)'s clearly not that keen on special schools for the majority either or I would not have had to write my piece on Schools Transport in CH's 'Your Platform' yesterday."

Adam thank you very much for pointing out your article which have now read – agree issue very worrying.

Having read this thread, one gets a good idea of why the Conservatives have lost 3 successive elections. May I contribute the following:

1)Grammar schools are not the miracles they are claimed to be. They will obviously beat comp's because they have the brightest children from a given area. With 5 or six notable exceptions, grammar schools' results are considerably worse than similarly selective independent schools (see FT's 1000 top schools). Moreover, they have a reputation for offering a far narrower educational experience than their independent counterparts. I would go as far to say many of the 164 grammars get quite bad results given the quality of their intake. Graham Brady's constituency's grammars' results have the spots knocked off them by local private schools.

2)The notion of compulsory selection at 11 with grammars/secondary moderns is not only not politically possible, it is absolutely not desirable. Why aim a policy at giving choice and diversity to only a small percentage of children?

3) David Willets' speech, which I'm sceptical many posters have read, offered the notion of a far broader choice for all children in all areas. This is infinitely more Conservative or right wing than consigning the majority to secondary moderns.

4)Brady's stats don't 'prove' anything. He has illustrated an inability to argue critically or adress the broader issue of education for all. Simply asserting grammar schools excellence isn't a policy or 'principle'

5) By all means criticise the Cameron team if they fail to produce a policy which doesn't offer greater choice and power to parents. I certainly will. But don't go after them because they aren't bringing back Butler's 1944 education act.

6) But above all, criticise Gordon Brown a long way before you criticise David Cameron. There is little doubt in my mind which of the two is the greater danger to the fantastic legacy 18 years of Conservative government gave this country, and which has the best policies for britain's future.

Peter Farrington - With view like those what on earth were you doing voting labour?

Not only that, but a hugh organisation is then required to feed every child, as if we were at war or living through a famine or national disaster. I'd have thought the idea of Free School Meals for all would be a socialist not a conservative proposal.

Posted by: Peter Farrington | June 01, 2007 at 14:23

This is exactly how schools used to function - we still have canteens and dining rooms - what you propose is ridiculous. Next you'll want to charge for textbooks.

The cost of processing Free Schools Meals forms is not zero - it requires the LEA Bureaucracy and they then assess the costs back to the school. I bet the administration cost more than the meal

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