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Why is Conservative-run Poole Council engaged in class war?

Seaton Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education says Conservative councils are undermining grammar schools.

Situated as they are, near the eastern boundaries of Warwickshire, Rugby's two grammar schools have traditionally drawn their pupils from Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and  other local authority areas.

That, of course, is in accordance with the oft-quoted Greenwich Judgement which gave parents the legal right to seek a place in a school in any local authority, not just the one in which they live.

As would be expected, the two grammar schools, Lawrence Sheriff for boys and Rugby High School for girls, produce excellent results. With nothing except comprehensive schools, neither  Leicestershire nor Northamptonshire can offer anything that will really stretch bright children.  So conscientious parents vote with their feet and choose schools across local authority boundaries.

Both Lawrence Sheriff and Rugby High are foundation schools so they are supposed to control their own admissions. Nevertheless, Northamptonshire Admissions Forum (almost certainly encouraged by the teachers' unions) has complained to the local adjudicator, Alan Parker. Mr Parker seems to think he can deny some choices he doesn't like and, in effect, over-rule the Greenwich Judgment. It may need an expensive legal challenge, perhaps from the National Grammar Schools Association, to decide whether he is right or wrong. But in a free society, why should that be necessary?

To their shame, the heads and governors of Lawrence Sheriff and Rugby High have meekly agreed to re-draw their catchment areas effectively to exclude out-of-area applicants. They are now consulting on these proposals, but there is no duty placed on them to respect parental wishes, whichever way it goes.

Meanwhile, local parents have formed a pressure group to fight for their right to choose. Led by Leon Kaufman and Jeremy Harper, they meet every Sunday afternoon to co-ordinate the collection of signatures on their online and paper petitions, and fight for justice against the bureaucrats.

Denial of choice and removing competition is the totalitarian, socialist way. The question for Conservatives is whether they are any better. The signs are not auspicious.   

Poole local authority, whose website proudly claims it is Conservative controlled,  is currently supporting proposals by Poole Grammar School for boys and Parkstone Grammar School for girls to move applicants for their limited places to the back of the queue, if they have attended independent prep schools. Many middle income families pay for a private prep school in their child's early years – probably as much to ensure the child lays solid educational foundations as to enhance their chances of a place in a grammar school. Taxed as they are and mortgaged to the hilt, how many families can afford school fees for more than one child for years and years to come?

Here again, the heads and governors of the two foundation schools are pursuing policies that are highly questionable on the grounds of unreasonable discrimination if nothing else. Aspirational  families who do their best for their children are again being punished.

This confused system of government is, of course, carefully designed to disperse  accountability so that everyone can avoid blame.  But who is in charge here? Is it elected councillors or unelected, ideologically-driven officials, whose primary aim in life is to remove parental choice?

Education secretary Ed Balls's convoluted new Admissions Code is partly to blame.  But why was it not opposed inside and outside Parliament? Or perhaps it was and no-one noticed?  Everyone wants to help the under-privileged to improve their situation. But is removing choice from those who make an effort to help themselves the only way to do that?

Why don't those in positions of authority and control consider the consequences before they make decisions? Has none of them heard of Lenin's 'useful idiots'?


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