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"If selection doesn't work then surely under a free market in schools those that do best will refuse to select?"

No. Not at all.

Selection in a choice scheme is the equivalent of free-riding.

Rich Amner> 11:29

..this is the problem with this thread, some are engaging in an interesting policy debate and some people are flying off the handle and spinning around frothing at the mouth, I suspect a few of whom have axes to grind. Hands up who has read his speech, come on... well its lunch time now so on you go.

There I was standing under the shower this morning, when in the bedroom my dozing wife woke up and let out the sort of outraged yell that made me think that the cat had been sick during the night and she had inadvertently stepped in the mess.

But she had been listening to the headlines on Today instead, and this is the story that she had heard.

For what it’s worth I am a great fan of Academies, and have visited Greig Academy in Haringey, the first to open, on a number of occasions. It’s an inspiring place and there is clear evidence that a dreadful spiral of failure has been reversed.

However, as Umbrella Man said at 1131, this is about choice and localism. If the Party is genuinely committed to those principles, it should allow local communities to decide what model suits them best. That might include Academies; it might also include grammar schools. There are other models too – in Stamford, where there was no adequate VI form provision, the County Council funded 50 places at the Stamford Endowed schools (25 for boys & 25 for girls). Sadly under this government that policy has come to an end.

Mr Amner

The post modern Conservative Party shows little interest in substance. It is more concerned with how people look and sound than with what they have to say. They are obsessed with soundbites, sending out signls and perception and soundbites and perception in its widest sense. But twelve years of New Labour has made the electorate wary and weary. The Tories should therefore not be surprised when they are taken at face value.

The non Grammar schools in Kent achieve very poor results (16-29% with 5 or more GCSEs)

I've always thought it was odd for Tories to support grammars. We don't support planning elsewhere. Why here?

I was pleased to hear Willetts' speech. I think it's a good thing, and equally, I see the whingers here don't have any facts to support them whatsoever.

I get confused in this style and substance debate...

Willett's speech was all substance and no style, but still we're being attacked!

Luckily I live near a grammar school so my kids and my friends kids have the opportunity to apply. If they get in they will get a first class education (the results tables back that up) that's state funded which will be great as none of us can afford to go private. But it's not really opportunity for all, is it?

Neither is this policy.

However if the Conservatives won a local council for the first time and wanted to introduce Grammar schools because they were told by the LOCAL electorate that's what they wanted, would the party allow this??

The policy has got to be that of free choice for parents and free choice for schools.
The males in my family are all the very intelligent, late developer type - pretty common. They would all fail to get into grammar school without intensive tuition. that does not mean that type of pupil should be abandoned to secondary modern education. David Willetts also has a point about how the middle classes use home tuition these days to beat the system.
In Sweden, free choice of school works well and is very popular with parents. If this is coupled with freedom for schools, the policy will start to work. Schools could decide to be selective if they wish, or stream, or use progressive techniques, and expel children when they want to (often the largest cause of disruption in class is the inability to expel these pupils these days).
This free choice for parents and free choice for schools is what makes the private sector so strong. Local to me are 3 selective private schools, 2 non-selective, and one quite progressive one that takes alot of SEN pupils. Parents and schools make their choice, and usually they end up with a "best fit" - what is the problem with replicating this system in the state-funded market?

bill 11:57 > Have you read Willetts speech?... (I am assuming you can read as well as write, or has the state let you down educationally?)

The word "grammar" (as in school) appears seventeen times in Willetts's speech; the word
"discipline" appears once. Whilst you may draw what you will from that, the Tories are IMO more interested in sucking up to Guardian reading metropolitan luvvies by distancing the Tories from the grammar schools than they are in addressing hard issues like discipline without which education is impossible.

This is hardly surprising. David Cameron will do anything to win office so he wants to create a third leftwing party in time for the next General Election. Hence he rushes to embrace Labour's repressive social justice of the lowest common denominator....called comprehensive education. I confidently expect a Tory attack on the independent sector too in order to show the BBC and the Guardian that they have "changed". It is clear from this speech that the Tory Party doesn't believe in localism but then we knew that too. Francis Maude is no more capable of devolving power than Gordon Brown. I find Willetts less and less impressive: long on diagnosis and short on prescription. Increasingly, he seems willing to say whatever he is told to say by Cameron.

I agree entirely with Malcolm. You cannot have promotion by merit and social mobility without selection. Streaming within comps, if it ever happens, simply earmarks those in the top set for a good kicking. Labour have a Cultural Marxist aversion to meritocracy and hence selection. The Tories show time and again that they don't believe in it either. Mother-and-apple-pie platitudes about raising standards for all should be taken with a Lot's Wife of salt, especially if the culture of Whitehall directives and targets is to remain. Both parties have had nearly 50 years to back these pieties with action and have done nothing.

For those hung up on the 11 plus, Germany has a perfectly good grammar school system which selects on a rolling basis rather than using a single exam as a cut-off point. There is much more social mobility in Germany than here.

People who don't support Cameron have two places to go, Tim: either they don't vote or they vote tactically to ensure that the Tories cannot get a majority.

And I speak as someone who supported Cameron for the leadership. I'm having doubts now.

If arch-Cameroon Peter Hatchet is having doubts this is most assuredly a betrayal too far on the part of the Cameron mafia.

But for the likes of "Dave" and his well-heeled clique of champagne socialists Grammar Schools are all too freely available.

They have names like Eton...

Grammar schools were great agents for social inclusion and social mobility. Their closure by a bitter and twisted Labour Party was one of the worst things to have happened this country.

Of course it is disappointing that the Conservative leadership are abandoning grammar schools. Anyone who has seen their power to promote everything that our party values will agree.

I suspect that the party leadership wants to achieve grammar-school ends without the fallout that reintroducing grammar schools would cause. I understand this position. If this is the position it is vital that the leadership explain how they will boost social mobility and do all the other great things that grammar schools do, without having grammar schools.

If Cameron was looking for his Clause4, He's found it. Peter Hitchens on Jeremy Vine in fine form.

Oberon Houston

Thank you for your sarcastic concern.

Unlike your beloved leader's, my parents could not afford to educate me privately. I did indeed however benefit from a state education both grammar and comprehensive which is something I believe neither Call Me Dave or Two Brains can claim. I also went to Oxbridge. Since we are comparing, where were you educated.

I'd be very interested in what Shadow Education Minister John Hayes' view of the grammar school policy is. Close to resigning from the front bench is my guess.

The policies on streaming and enabling more people to set up State Schools are welcome. However, its a terrible failure to have advocated a voucher system that empowered consumers.

Blimey, I find myself in agreement with Changetowin. What's going on? Only piont of disagreement was that it wasn't 'a bitter and twisted Labour party' that closed most grammar schools it was us( Mrs Thatcher).
I have no read through Willets speech twice and whilst not everything he proposes was clear he is completely opposed to academic selection.

Oh that's not like changetowin. Did anybody ever read such a heartrending cri de coeur from Dave's chief cheerleader?

But of course the Fuhrer is always right, so there must be some explanation somewehere. I mean there must be, mustn't there?

I sense that this is Bluelabour's biggest blunder yet.

Time for all those Tories sleeping there below to wake up to the fact that our party has been hi-jacked by socialists and opportunists.

Malcolm - granted we closed them, but the Labour Party started it!

Traditional Tory,

Of course we are all bound to have issues with party policies from time to time (some more than others!)

But it is much more constructive to use civilised language. Calling our leader a Fuhrer is really sad.

I've always been positive about the Cameron leadership but this is being handled particularly badly.

I'm glad we're continuing down the path of more choice, more streaming, better discipline etc, and I think City Academies are a good thing. However they don't seem to me to cater for the brightest children which is surely where Grammar schools come in.

Yes, we shouldn't be forcing grammars on communities which don't want them, but by the same token if a group of parents wants one they should get it.

Ideally we need to have a good network of (presumably comprehensive) academies with "a grammar school in every town" alongside them (plus technical colleges for older, say 14+ practically minded teenagers etc). That way no-one loses out.

This is a disgrace. Where's the freedom of choice and the direct accountability in comprehensive education?

Why has social mobility halved since the closure of the vast majority of grammar schools?

Why is it alright to select on almost any other ability but not on ability to reason logically?

This really is a step too far for me.

David Willets is just a rather geeky, out of touch, averagely intelligent wonk.

Only in a land of intellectual pygmies would someone who clearly lacks a consistent politic framework be regarded as even modestly bright.

The conservative party can no longer be considered a serious political party - more an opportunist pr campaign

Come on changetowin, you can do better than that! Margaret Thatcher showed barely less zeal than the appalling Shirley Williams when it came to destroying the form of education which provided her with her passport to Oxford.

Having read Willetts in full, it is by no all means all bad. However, it leaves some key things unsaid. He dismisses vouchers on the basis that there is no "capacity" to absorb the spending power. I have never understood this argument. When people with money to spend decide to favour a restaurant, it expands to meet the demand. It may need to borrow to fund the expansion. Why cannot a school do the same? That is exactly what private schools do. If bureaucracy prevents it, then change the rules so that all schools can do this, not just City Academies. You don't need a degree in rocket science to work this out.

In any case, there is spare capacity .....in the private sector. A Party which kowtowed less to the prejudices of Polly Toynbee would simply negotiate to buy up that capacity at favourable rates, just as Labour has done in relation to excess capacity in the private healthcare sector. However, Messrs Willetts and Cameron want to lovingly maintain the Berlin Wall between the state and private sectors. It then makes it easier to attack private schools as elitist and socially divisive.

I suspect “changetowin” 1238 is right and the overall aim may be to make more schools something like grammar schools, with streaming throughout and more rigorous standards. However if “every school a grammar school” is the aim they need to find the confidence/courage and clarity to say so. The whole policy is being drowned out by the anti-grammar school headlines. That is not the fault of this site – it is across the media spectrum.

There is no evidence that I know of that suggests that grammar schools are electorally unpopular, so leaving aside the policy for a moment there is certainly an immediate & serious presentational problem.

On another issue, Willett’s speech refers to educational providers “such as United Learning Trust, the Woodard Trust and the City Livery Companies which have an historic involvement in education and which are ideal candidates to manage and to run the Academies.” I wonder why he makes no reference to the oldest and largest provider of them all – the Church of England.

I've not seen anyone say anything which actually undermines the key facts of Willetts' case.

Come on. All you people seem to hate it but not one of you is able to actually give a fact with a source (and 'In my day...' is not admissible).

I haven't had a chance to read all the comments but the sheer number tells its own story. It is very disappointing that the door is apparently already closed on this subject. It simply is not true to say that the grammars do not contribute hugely to social mobility. My own father was a case in point and, although I agree we need to consider making them more accessible, surely one answer is "a grammar school in every town".

They are like good independent schools - without the fees - and provide an excellent all-round education producing academically excellent pupils which is what the universities need to be able to keep up their standards.

If DC and co really believe in localism, let local authorities decide what type of schools they want to provide - and bring back grant maintained schools to improve standards even more widely.

I will find it very difficult to continue supporting a party that merely follows in Nulab's footsteps where education is concerned.

"Selection in a choice scheme is the equivalent of free-riding."


changetowin writes, "I suspect that the party leadership wants to achieve grammar-school ends without the fallout that reintroducing grammar schools would cause. I understand this position. If this is the position it is vital that the leadership explain how they will boost social mobility and do all the other great things that grammar schools do, without having grammar schools."

Why are we re-inventing the wheel when it already turns very adequately in those areas with grammar schools already?

Not all children are academically bright, true, but why should those that are suffer for it? Grammar schools work, look at the league tables.

Mark @ 12:54 has the right idea if the money can be found.

Disappointing is not the word!

Michael McGowan:

"Having read Willetts in full, it is by no all means all bad. However, it leaves some key things unsaid. He dismisses vouchers on the basis that there is no "capacity" to absorb the spending power. I have never understood this argument"

It is much too long. He should probably have not touched on grammar schools unless it was the main aim.

In terms of the vouchers stuff, I thought it was roughly right. He says vouchers will work, but not until we have relaxed constraints on schools adapting to deal with it. Just moving to a voucherised system on its own wouldn't do.

"I've not seen anyone say anything which actually undermines the key facts of Willetts' case."

The success of the selective education system in Northern Ireland which has better results than comprehensive England.

The fact that the remaining grammars in England are concentrated in middle class areas hence the middle class dominance of these grammars.

Rich Amer,

You criticise educational planning yet wish to restrict schools from choosing to select themselves!

A truly unplanned system would be a fully privatised system but sadly that's not electorally possible at the moment.

I've said before that Willetts is overrated. Needless to say I am not happy about this, grammar schools being a "core issue" for me.

I live in the borough of Sutton, which has two MPs, both Lib Dems; both of them are very much winnable seats next election, but with this policy I think they'll lose votes round here - there are 5 very popular and succesful grammar schools in the borough. UKIP did well here last time round - if they can play on the grammar school thing, they'll do well again.

bill: appologies for the sarcasm, it was just too tempting... I went to a poor state school in the Scottish Highlands and studied petroleum engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh (I'm still in the oil industry). Now, have you read Willetts speech? The reason I keep asking is that I thought it was very good, and not 'policy light' as you suggested earlier.

A selective system was reintroduced into East Germany after decades of communism. There's no reason why it can't be reintroduced here.

By your logic we should never have denationalised in the 1980s - that was effectively turning the clock back.

Posted by: Richard | May 16, 2007 at 11:07"

I don't know about East Germany; but even if they did, I am not certain that the communists didn't have selection in schools anyway ... think about all those schools that were for the children of party members.

Privatisation was not a return to the pre-nationalised industries that existed before ... it was a response to the failures of nationalisation as a policy and a sale of the existing structures. It was the right thing to do to overcome the existing problems.

In the same way, whatever people may think of the advantages of Grammar schools, simply to recreate them in parts of the country that haven't had them for up to 40 years would not answer the criticisms that we all have of the current education system. We need to look forward ... to adopt the best of what works, which will include some aspects of what makes some Grammar schools work as well as what works in many Comprehensive schools and even look at what works in the private sector. That is not to say that the Grammar schools that have survived will not continue ... they should. Decisions about their continued existence is and will remain a matter for local authorities. This is consistent with my beliefs as a Conservative ...

Mr Price - what works better at comprehensives than grammar schools? Other than having more money, what works better at private schools than grammar schools?

Richard - read the speech. Your points are dealt with.

I was grammar school educated and I was glad to be given not only the chance but the privilege of doing so.
I have always thought it wrong to remove the choice and hold back for the want of a better expression the more brighter of children. I was hoping that this was one policy that the Tories would keep.
I am at a loss to understand, and bearing in mind that as politics go in cycles and at the moment I think politics are too far to the left, I think a re-balancing is in order and Cameron would have been far better to have shifted slightly to the right here then I am sure he would have made the correct decision.
All that is going to come from this is another plank to bash him with come a GE for how many good policies he has abandoned just to get elected.
He is going to be branded as a flip-flopper, the name will stick, as it did with John Kerry in the States, he is already being accused of say anything do anything just get elected at any price.

I have a Party Patrons enrolment form sitting on my desk (£50 per month standing order) but like hell I'm going to fill it in if Willets and Cameron keep coming up with New Labour nonsense like this. Willets says grammar schools don't help social mobility. Which is why anyone with a few spare quid sends their children to private school. I felt rather buoyed after the council elections, but it's all come crashing down again. I don't care what the Tory appeasers say. This is truly disturbing stuff.

Oberon, the more you read it, the more it seems like a reprise of Greg Clark on redistibution. A headline cooked up no doubt by Hilton to annoy Tory voters and stroke the erogenous zones of the BBC and the "Guardian". Then a speech which seems to me to duck a lot of the key issues because that would involve taking on the vested interests of the left. After a lot of interesting diagnosis, to come up with the "solution" of offering more City Academies is so desperately tentative and has nothing much to offer two thirds of the population who long for a state school system which actually provides good education. What have they been doing in opposition for the last ten years?

"I went to a poor state school in the Scottish Highlands"
Oberon, I went to a bl**dy good state school in the Scottish Highlands, just wondering how the rest of us survived and got an excellent education under the tories in the 80's without a grammar school in sight!

I don't think that any of the pro-grammar school bloggers on this thread advocate just covering the country in grammar schools and thinking, problem solved.

What we (I) am saying is, don't throw out a system that clearly works. Look at how grammar schools can be part of a wider education system. They have a place and work for communities and pupils.

I think this announcement was ill-thought out (or if we've got it all wrong, very badly worded)

Another move towards a social democratic Tory Party. As a Tory voter I do have somewhere else to go: it's abstaining!

Michael: Whilst the 'tactics' of Hilton may annoy the converted, it is important that we get others listening to our message. I'm not convinced that the end effect in material policy terms will be that marked. The risky trik of getting others to trust us quicker by irritating core support by appearing exposed then winning in the end is justified and a necessary evil in my view. Regarding Willetts, I don't share your policy light appeasment arguement. Willetts is talking about independance, real choice, full private funding opportunities, flexability and streaming. To say that equality of opportunity (missused term by New Labour who are really egalitarian under it) is leftist isn't really on either. Meritocracies need people to have opportunity to in the first place before merit can be truly established.

If I were a frontbencher (which is a pretty arrogant way to start a post!) I would give very serious consideration to resigning today. I wonder whether any frontbenchers actually will?

I find particulary pernicious the argument put forward by the Left saying:

"Only 5% of children at Grammar Schools are eligible for free school meals, compared with 13% nationally"

This may be because Labour councils have conspired in the closure of so many grammar schools over the years that the only ones left tend to be in Kent, Surrey and other areas. It is a bit sick then to claim that they are only for the rich, while refusing to give able poor children the same responsibility.

The Right needs to nail dodgy stats like this once and for all...

Cameron has got both the political capital and the presentation skills to be courageous and bring grammar schools back in a way that benefits as many people as possible (and to reform comprehensives too!) It will be a waste if he does not do so.


The grammar system is dead and selling it as such is divisive. We have to accept this (much though I like it - and I was one of the first critical posters on this thread this morning).

Nevertheless, despite my disappointment that we don't have a grammar system across the country I feel compelled to post again now in response to some of the hyperbole that has been posted. It is absolutely pointless frothing in opposition about how we should never have dumped something that's good. Instead we have to devise a new programme, one not mired in old prejudices, which is fit to do what grammar schools did. Our energies would be better focussed on that than spewing at the leadership.

Surely the solution is, as Willetts hints, to move the city academies policy up a gear to allow us to move towards a system under which schools have more independence. Then we are a stone's throw from the voucher system which I think would be more dynamic and therefore more effective and sell-able than grammar schools.

...and I say this as a grammar school supporter. "Real up" as they've started saying on the West Coast...

On which, well said Oberon.


I have read the speech, typos and all and it did not impress me.

I sympathise with the views of anon at 13.39.

I would have a little more confidence in Tory education policy if all Tory MPs sent their kids to state schools.

"real choice, full private funding opportunities, flexability and streaming."
As Oberon points out that is exactly what a forward thinking Conservative party should want to give everybody?

Of course the current 168 grammar schools do not help social mobility - they are surrounded by failing comprehensives. This is a selective speech full of nonsense. I'm very sad at this lost opportunity. Senior figures should resign, but then we are at a pivotal point in the electoral cycle so again Cameron will get away with it. I no longer feel I can go out an deliver campaign literature as it does not reflect my views.

The most damming comment so far:

Changetowin:Of course it is disappointing that the Conservative leadership are abandoning grammar schools....If this is the position it is vital that the leadership explain how they will boost social mobility and do all the other great things that grammar schools do, without having grammar schools.

See also:
Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

Oberon, I've read the speech twice and freely admit that I don't fully understand all the points he was trying to make.
Two things stand out 'though. He seems to rely on 'free school meals' as the only indicator to determine social disadvantage. I don't think this is true at all.
Secondly I think he is on really weak ground when he opines that grammar school worked in the past but fail now because of changes to society. He seems to imply that because middle class parents try harder at parenting than they did when he was a child, 'driving their children to tennis lessons etc', that they should be prevented from choosing an academic school because their children already have advantages. I may have misunderstood what he was trying to say however.
Most importantly, he does not make the case as to why a City Academy should perform any better than 'a bog-standard comprehensive'credibly to me. It may not be Willets fault, I was never ever top of the class in my Grammar School!


I agree that reliance on free school meals ia poor indicator. Without getting too technical, in my experience children from disadvantaged families preferred packed lunches to the free school meals to which they were entitled. They presumably fall outside this measure.


I think the "free school meals" criterion, which is a standard indicator in education, is based on eligibility not take-up. I stand to be corrected though.

"I confidently expect a Tory attack on the independent sector too in order to show the BBC and the Guardian that they have "changed"."

Michael, a friend of mine is confidently expecting an attack on the free market in order to show much we've changed.

"Streaming within comps, if it ever happens, simply earmarks those in the top set for a good kicking".

Was this a joke?? Good grief - what century are some of you living in? My child attends a truly non-selective comprehensive school, is in the top set in all subjects, has wide friendship groups drawn from her mixed ability form grouping and is flying both academically and socially. Smug parent? Possibly so and I concede we don't live in an inner city but I get so frustrated with the comprehensive = bad, grammar school = good argument.

The Spectator has just posted an editorial. It's not impressed either.


"He seems to rely on 'free school meals' as the only indicator to determine social disadvantage. I don't think this is true at all."
Malcolm & Bill, he is indeed correct that under this Labour government that is exactly what has been happening. Having visited two schools in the same city run by the same council a few years ago I was struck by one school which seemed to have less problem getting equipment which the other school in a more sought after area needed to rely on it's PTA to raise funds and provide.
On speaking to a friend in the Education Dept and commenting on this their reply was simple "One school has a higher proportion of children eligible for free school meals and therefore gets more funding".

Having re-read it I'm still in shock.

I can't believe the 'Conservatives' are now in agreement with Labour that rather than judging a school by results we should judge it by social mobility within the UK.

Really we should measure our success by results and not just in the UK but against the rest of the world. Whilst other nations are striving for greatness we treat our education system as some sort of social engineering experiment.

I'm on the phone to my banker now to cancel my donations.

The only part of the entire speech that rang true was the last sentence!

I won't vote for those morons anymore!

Grammar schools: What an overreaction. Under our 18 years of government not one was opened and not one was closed. Our policy now is no different. Grammar schools may be an improvement on the status quo but cutting off an arbitrary number of people at an arbitrary age is no panacea. Having said this Willetts' reasoning on social mobility is a little dodgy: one reason grammars take fewer on free school meals is becuase there are so few of them and so entry requires brains + affording a house in the right area. If grammars were everywhere areas with them wouldn't see higher house prices. It would be better simply to let all schools have their own admissions policy, though obviously this isn't going to happen.

The politics: This is another way to show we've changed (even though it isn't a chnage) to neuter and even attract those previously hostile to us. However this gain will be outweighed unless we make it very clear that no existing grammar schools are threatened. We have to be careful here.

Willetts' proposals: His speech is worth reading. He wants to make it much easier for new suppliers to enter the market and for there to be new models. He's also a little mischievous in repeating how Blair's legislation has helped make this possible for a future government to implement. I think his dismissal of vouchers is unconvincing: surely their introduction would shake up the supply side, it wouldn't simply lead to a redisitribution of how places in good schools are allocated.

As well as admissions the other area where Willetts is proposing continuing central control is teaching methods and the curriculum. This is unfortunate but it's better to have centrally directed proper education than centrally directed PC education. Interestingly, in his book 'Modern Conservatism' Willetts described restoring educational rigour as perhaps the greatest issue of our times. It seems he meant it.

IRJMilne asks what works? This is quite a topic, but I will try to give some examples ... there are state schools, comprehensive and grammar, that use teaching methods in different ways and mix the children in ways that they use these methods and those mixes to help their children live up to their abilities. Similarly, there are advantages, for example the teaching methods at some private schools to help with Dislexic children that mean that these children with these learning difficulties advance at a rate that they would struggle to achieve without these methods being employed.

What worries me about many of the posts is the assumption that because David Willetts has said selection at 11 won't work in today's environment, people assume that that means that there will be no selection within schools; it seems to me that it makes sense to use streaming, for example, and that streaming involves a constant assessment and selection within a year group at the school. This way you shouldn't end up with a class of such varied ability that one child is bored and another is over-stretched.

David Willetts is not suggesting that schools cannot be academic - nor is he 'attacking' good schools. What he is attempting to do is to find answers the perennial problem that arises where children do not live up to their abilities. I read his speech as being an argument for making all schools into 'good' schools; not an attack on any particular type of school.

I have read on another blog a suggestion that the free school dinners thing may be misleading because grammar schools have been retained in areas with higher socio-economic groups in the first place.

It would be interesting if the blog carried out a repeat survey of the one it did in January last year when the vast majority of those questioned disagreed with the policy of abandoning grammar schools even though some did think it might be a good political move even if they disagreed with it.

Glad to see UKIP has issued a press release pointing out it is the only party which now recognises that grammar schools are as in Ireland a conduit for social mobility and should be supported

The school meals figures are also massively different within the Authorites covered by Grammar Schools.
Perhaps those defending Trafford and Kent would like to give us some stats
(although given the terrible record of whats left outside the Grammar school system in those areas,I doubt it)

Wow, what a thread!

Malcolm 14:40 (& Bill later...)

Okay, with the free school meals, this is just a statistic, and should be recognised as such, but it is a significant one. Kid’s that receive free school meals are the poorest in society, so looking at how they compare is important. Willetts is comparing percentages of kids locally (note that bill) who are in a Grammar versus those not and finds that there is a clear slide of poor kids away from the Grammar’s. The conclusion that Grammars do not fully represent local spread is therefore valid and very important.

This gets me onto your main point Malcolm, and it’s what he was saying about the society changes in the last 30 years and the thrust is this: Grammars worked better in the past because society was different. Parental influence across the board was more even, therefore the ‘push’ they gave their kids towards Grammar was more evenly spread. But today with the breakdown of the family and the rapid rise of the middle class over the working class those poorest kids will be much more likely to miss out, therefore we need a new system which will give them a fair chance. Good policy to ensure we don’t support a intra-generational poverty trap of under achievement does need to be addressed.

Finally: If we can flat out and supported Grammars, the weakness in our stance “we will measure our policy against how it affects the poorest in our society” , then would hand Gordon Brown a massive stick to beat us with, and we would be dead in the water. That’s the easy option, the wrong one morally, and the wrong one politically. Willetts has given us the right platform to attack Labour’s dogmatic and weak alternative and, despite our disappointment, we should accept the reality and recognise it as such.

I voted Labour at the last three elections, but the one policy I always admired the Conservatives for was their support for grammar schools. I went to a state grammar school as a lad and the town where I live always returns a Tory MP primarily because the Tories have always been seen as pro-grammar school. But now with the Tory grammar policy being exactly the same as Labour, people will no longer feel the need to be loyal to the Conservatives. I was considering voting for Cameron's Tories at the next general election, but I really don't see the point anymore. I think he's made a huge mistake here.

Why not turn all state schools into Independent schools able to charge fees to cover costs, then have low interest means tested loans available repayable on the same basis as for Student Loans now, the same principle could be applied to the NHS. If people then wanted the Assisted Places Scheme could be brought back and schools that were formerly state schools could be allowed to have selection criteria including something akin to the 11+ if they wanted, and there could be more religious schools.

Glad to see UKIP has issued a press release pointing out it is the only party which now recognises that grammar schools are as in Ireland a conduit for social mobility and should be supported
The DUP and UUP also support Grammar Schools, UKIP though may well be the only major national party to do so.

David Cameron is quoted on bbc.co.uk as saying that 'establishing grammar schools is extremely difficult and...often leads to being very unpopular and they are then got rid of'. I don't want to be difficult but where?,when?
As far as I was aware not one grammar school has EVER been closed after a referendum amongst local parents. Does anyone know differently?

Grammar schools are a good thing, and it's bad that the leadership opposes them, but they're not the be-all and end-all of a good education system. Most countries manage to give a good education to 60-80% of all pupils, grammars are designed to give a good education to the top 30%. While our current system is a travesty and far worse than the old grammar/secondary divide, a proper selective system should be able to provide appropriate schooling for pupils at all levels of ability, and not write you off if you only score in the top 40% instead of top 30%.
My experience of grammar schooling in Northern Ireland was that it allowed for much more social mobility than the comp/church/private system in England - eg my mother came from a dirt-poor background, she got a good education due to her ability that would never have been possible in the current wealth/class based system. Likewise you got a wide social mix at my grammar that you wouldn't get in a wealth-based system.

On the other hand, pro-boy Positive Discrimination to even up the numbers of boys & girls at grammar school meant that there were a slew of boys at my grammar who weren't intellectually fit for such a hot-house education, and presumably a slew of girls at NI secondaries who were acamically better than them.

I just can't believe this thread. As I've said before, I'm against grammar schools but just can't understand this level of *apparent* outrage. If this is such a pivotal issue as some are trying to make out with such hyperbole why was there no outrage at our failure to reinstitute grammar schools in 18 years of government. It just does not ring true.

Oberon - I take your point, however if in principle the party supports Grammar schools (in that it wouldnt get rid of them) how can it also suggest that ANY are that wanted to opt for a Grammar school system where there wasnt one, could not have it.

Either we as a party think they do not work and do not help the "poorest" which frankly I would challenge. Or we think they do work and whilst we would not embark on rolling our Grammar schools all over the place (which as has been pointed out previously - Thatcher didn't) we would NOT pick a fight on the issue.

And yes I have read the speech, and it surely must have come as no surprise that the contents would be portrayed by the media as a "Tory's scrap Grammar school" story.

Oberon Houston - well said. It takes some time, but we all need to read DW's speech in full before jumping to conclusions. As usual, much of the press misrepresents what was actually said by DW.

...and UKIP is NOT a major or national party. You just need to look at its piss-poor local election results to see that.

@Rich Amner
You are on Willets staff and I claim my £5

It is not good enough to say read the speech. Project Cameron has spent the last year chastising the rest of us for not being savvy with the media and the zeitgeist and then you squeeze out this t*rd.
It is certainly not good enough to describe Mrs T's inglorious reign as Heaths Education secretary 35 yrs ago as if that has any relevance to today's politics.

Project Cameron lives by the media and today has died by it. Willets must go for incompetence and stupidity according to his own lights.

It's come to something when a so-called Conservative front-bencher refers to children publicly as "kids". Can you imagine Margaret Hilda or any other real conservative ever doing so?

This forced populism doesn't fool anybody - certainly not the public sector employed, Labour voting types that David (the Cameroon) and David (the Willy) are desperate to appeal to, never mind the effect it has on the core Conservative voters and party members that it dismays.

It could, however, be a clever way of Cameroon's Blue Labour clearing the path for the expansion of the private education system he'll no doubt choose for his own children, despite his protestations to the contrary.

Oberon, this argument about middle class parents trying harder now than they did in the past is very unconvincing. If I compare my children's upbringing with my own, their parents undoubtedly have more disposable income to spend on them but because of divorce and working hours, they get less direct parental input than my parents gave me. It is very debateable whether their mother and I "try harder" than our parents. You may just think we are bad parents. My grandfather was the son of an Edwardian tinplate worker who was killed in an industrial accident when he was four, leaving his very poor mother to bring up three boys in what would now be condemned as a slum. He went to the local primary and grammar schools, to university and into teaching. Are you seriously telling me that there was not a chasm between what his mother could provide for him and what the middle classes of Henley on Thames were providing their children in the early 1900's?

Ultimately the issue must boil to one of size and disciple. Lets say, on average, Grammar schools have 800 pupils and take 30% of the best students, to accomodate them offering an equal range of subjects would require a school of 2700 pupils and a level of disciple which is much higher than achieved in many comprehensives. In addition, ability is not evenly spreed; to offer a bright child living in some urban areas an equivalent education, an absolutely massive comprehensive would be required.

Ultimately, the Tories must answer the question, "is the primary purpose of education social engineering?" I would say the primary purpose is to ensure that each child is educated according to his ability and likely future career.
Politicians do not control human genetics (yet), and till they do the most intelligent will continue to have the most intelligent parents, although a significant proportion of children will potentially disappoint or exceed their parents' expectations.

I dont think our successfully competitors emerging in the Far East could give a monkey's about anything other than excellence and in subjects which are the future, not the past: maths, science, engineering.

So ultimately it boils down to logistics, not wishful thinking or playing to the gallery. If we dont focus on the brightest, we will become a third world country, by default.

When Wirral became a hung Council in 1986, the Labour and Liberal Groups tried to introduce comprehensive education in the West and South of the Borough similar to that in Birkenhead and Wallasey.
They were supported by the Bursars and Governors of the local private schools -the then Tory Education Secretary saved us.
Now this Grammar School Boy will not take lessons from a Public School Boy like Oliver Letwin or David Cameron because where you have Grammar Schools, Private Schools do not flourish- Both DC and OL want to make sure that posh comprehensives such as Eton Survive.After all, you can't have the Middle Class thriving, can one.

It looks like David Cameron really is Tony Blair MK2 doesn't it?

Michael: I understand that there are many sucess stories from people from poor backgrounds, and those are to be celebrated. However the evidence is that social mobility is decreacing. I personally feel that we should do all we can to prevent an underclass developing in our society. Grammar schools are good, however the system is working against the poorest in society. That there are sucess stories doesn't detract from the propblem. To address this we need to have a system of education that provides excellent education, based on good Conservative policies, that doesn't unduly give preference to those above the poverty trap.

I would also repeat that to not address this would leave us wide open to attack.

Is John Gartside a Nazi propagandist?

Most countries manage to give a good education to 60-80% of all pupils, grammars are designed to give a good education to the top 30%.

Well that is not factually-based since it is untrue.

The Government has put all 16-19 Education under the control of quangoes called Learning and Skills Councils. In this area schools are being stripped of 6th Forms by grouping them together with CFE Colleges so post-16 education can be carried out cheaper than in a school.

If you strip a 6th Form off a school it loses its ethos being simply an 11-16 institution with a move to a 16-18 College and thence to University or Release if Alan Johnson doesn't raise the School Leaving age to 30

Is John Gartside a Nazi propagandist?

Posted by: tim | May 16, 2007 at 18:16
No. I don't believe he is, but I wonder about you.

To add my twopenn'orth. I am shocked and somewhat mystified to say that I thought the speech was excellent.

If we end up with a rash of new independent grant-maintained schools and academies that produce good results and are accessible to all across all areas then giving up selection is worth it.

I am convinced that not only are the reforms to the education system on the supply side the right ones for society as a whole, but also that as a political message they represent a coherent policy with something for everyone.

And I'm a fully-paid up headbanger.

Think I'm going to lie down for a bit.

The problem, Oberon is that you are supporting what are essentially Labour policies....not good Conservative ones. As well as ignoring the fact that the only eras in which social mobility has accelerated have been where there was selective education via the grammar school system.

"As another poster said, reintroduction of grammar schools is UKIP policy. Doesn't that tell you something?"
Yes it does...next time I'll vote UKIP!

The howl of *apparent* outrage, as you call it, is at least in my own case, perfectly genuine. Issue 1 is over Project Cameron and how right wing he is. How much baby are we throwing out with the bathwater. If he is acting leftie to get in and will swing back we can sit and wait but this is the strongest evidence yet that he is wholeheartedly leftie/media liberal and that having him as PM will achieve nothing.
Issue 2 is over competence. We have all been silenced because we cannot cope with the media and zeitgeist and then he pulls a really stupid and incompetent stunt like this which wins him headlines he cannot possibly want and swamps out the positive and important message in the rest of the speech. He did not need to mention grammar schools at all they are irrelevent to the education system in most of the UK. But he has made a free gift to Brown.

If he's a media Liberal and can't manage the media he really has no purpose.

The poor can't pay tutors to 'get' their children grammar school places, neither can they afford to buy or rent homes in 'good' comprehensive catchment areas either. More grammar schools would certainly make it easier for those with money to save on paying school fees! Not all Conservatives are rich.

Jonathan: I don't see he has been incompetent. This fits in perfectly with his strategy. Appeal to the crucial 15% current LD voters in key marginals so that they don't object out of principle to switching to us and will back us to dump New Labour.

On your point about silencing; you might want to feel you are an oppressed hard done-by soul but how exactly have you been silenced? It's pretty evident from this thread that you haven't been!

On your first point I can't help but feel the apparent outrage about grammar schools on this thread is partly, and only partly, outrage at Project Cameron more than the principle behind the schools(and I'm not suggesting people are being disingenuous about supporting it, just that, perhaps, it's not quite the issue some are making out). As I said higher up: the aim should not be to constrain ourselves by past ideas as to how we can achieve conservative goals but to develop new ways which aren't bogged down in the battles of the past. I genuinely believe - and this speech suggests - that a Conservative government would remove the state from education more and give more autonomy to teachers. That's a conservative goal which we're working towards. Labour wants to, increasingly, stop the "creeping privatisation" of our schools; we won't be such roadblocks to reform. Therefore I wouldn't say that Cameron would be "no change".

And, finally, he's not "acting left". He's "talking left". There's a distinction. You can still "talk left" and "act right" - indeed that's how you persuade people to move towards our position and how Thatcher got many strivers onside during the 80s.

An insulting disgrace. Yes to setting streaming in all schools. Yes to more trust schools and city academies. Yes to more grammar schools. Open up choice, create opportunity for those that would otherwise not have it.

I can't believe this. Just when I was warming to the Cameroons, they come along and do this. People have commented that it's hardly been key to Tory policy of late, and they're right. The fact is, it should have been, and it should be now.

Grammar schools aren't unfair to the poor, they're the complete opposite. I attend one presently, and there are people there from all walks of life. This truly is taking the ladder up with you. Willetts should resign, and Project Cameron has got to seriously reconsider where it's going, because I suspect for many in the party, this is a step too far.

Ahhh, the middle ground. If David keeps fighting over it, there will be too much weight pressing down on it and it will collapse, then what will be left with? Why penalise the gifted and those with ability? What is the point of a giant melting pot where we are all equal? Without winners we can't have losers and vice versa, they are a universal principles!! I don't want a nation of chavs, but nor do I want a nation of Eaton Toffs, I want a balance where determination and individual ability are cherished.

I wrote:
"Most countries manage to give a good education to 60-80% of all pupils, grammars are designed to give a good education to the top 30%."

TomTom wrote:
"Well that is not factually-based since it is untrue."

Which bit isn't true? In Northern Ireland Grammar schools combined with the 11+ take approximately the top 30% of boys and girls at age 11, aiming to give them an academic education suited to their ability.

Maybe the 60-80% for most countries is not or no longer true?

Strongly agree with Evan price. Read Willets paper. This is a good step forward that brings streaming and improvements to all schools and more freedom for schools. It seems to me that some people are so obsessed with a totemic notion of Grammars that they can't see past their noses. The debate has become almost ridiculous, has the silly season started early?


I would just like to widen this debate with the following statement and questions.

All kids have special needs, that is the special need for their individual aptitudes to be recognised and developed to the best of their ability. We are individuals and if allowed to play to ones strengths, the whole game will reap the benefit. Achievement in one facet of education will build the confidence to maximise all areas.

In which school system does this really truly happen?

Which school system can genuinely claimed to achieve this?

It is not my intention to answer this question, but rather to hope we can ponder upon this for a moment.

Bruce, that is exactly why I like, yes to repeat that "I like", the announcements today. It seems to me that we have listened and looked at different systems and identified a way forward that builds on the best. The hoo-haa about grammar shools is just masking the real issue and it is a real pity that this site has become so obsessed with the totemic side of this rather than the facts,


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