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I'm so incensed by this I shall post again. Why can't the political nation just admit the comprehensive system in this country has failed? I agree the previous tripartite system had serious flaws. Selection just by the eleven-plus is an issue.
Surely however overall quality of education will improve if children are with other children who actually want to achieve and better themselves. This speech is misjudged. The problem with the system now is that parents are well aware of good schools and bad schools in their area and will very often move into catchment areas where there is a good school. This leaves less well off parents will no choice but to send their children to a failing comprehensive. The city academy programme will do nothing for thse people that don't live in inner city areas.

Therefore the comprehensive system is flawed, instead of selection by ability we now effectively have selection by income in areas outside of London. Allowing LEAs to bring back grammar schools ould solve this. There obviously would need to be a good, well thought through alternative better than Secondary Moderns. I knew so many people who couldn't wait to et out of school but who enjoyed more vocational tasks. Why don't we train more plumbers and electricians? These professions are no longer occupied by the poorer in society but by many immigrants.

The univeristy system also needs to be overhauled. There are now too many people as disreputable universities doing courses which could not be classed as degrees but are. These places should be closed down or radically improved in calibre.

Both major parties now seem to think a one-size fits all policy suits - life is not like that. Schools also need to promote an ethos or working-culture. Grammars despite all obstacles from government still manage to do this. Human development takes place in schools too and the party should remember that.

Perhaps LEAs could even ballot their local area to decide which education route they would like to go down, then we would have real democracy.

@Matt
But the problem is that Willetts started it. He had a good story to tell and then blew it by quite unnecessarily mentioning grammar schools. Why? What was the point? If he had any bottom (18th century political sense, not in the CCHQ sense obviously) in the Conservative party at all he should have predicted this reaction.
Its arrogance or incompetence or a deliberate attempt to inflame the non-elected part of the Party and in any case he should go.

I have always, always voted, and always voted Conservative, but this astonishing, insane decision finally confirms for me that the Conservative party I knew has sadly ceased to exist. I will vote UKIP next time round if I vote at all. If the Conservative Party re-emerges I'll reconsider, but not until then.

Selection by ability is vital if working class kids with more academic potential are not to be held back. I came from a proud working class background and went to a Grammar school. Many if not most of my fellow pupils came from similar backgrounds - financially poor but academically reasonably bright, and by and large keen to 'make something' of our lives - and we would not have had access to the quality of education we received had it not been for the Grammar school - none of our parents could afford to send us to private school, let alone Eton. Even at Grammar school we were streamed to ensure the brighter pupils were allowed to move at their own speed - and it worked. This is not rocket science. There is nothing to say that all secondary schools shouldn't aspire to greatness, of course they should, and we should turn all our efforts to raising their standards, but all need to stream by ability, and yes, this should include the schools themselves -Bright children will frequently be bullied in a mixed ability community.

If there is currently an imbalance in the background of the children in Grammar schools it might be because we have drifted away from streaming by ability and the 11 plus - the solution is to return to streaming by ability, not to abandon Grammar schools.

In the days of the 11 plus, Grammar schools were the one state funded vehicle which consistently offered the chance of social mobility regardless of wealth or background. It always struck me as ironic that it was the Labour party which opposed them and the Tories who supported them when intuitively it should have been the other way round.

Maybe, just maybe, this is a hard nosed decision to win votes from Labour and the calculation is that less votes will be lost than won. If so it's a dangerous gamble, and a sad abandonment of conviction politics.

We are getting emails from all over Kent and the UK, of all age groups, from people totally disgusted by the Tory stance on grammar schools.

We are certainly losing support over this issue. Our core supporters seem to be horrified.

My husband and my son attended grammar school, the system works, so why give up our support on selective education?

Incidentally, my own father went to Eton, as did all his family - he would have been horrified at today's attitude by a party he loved and respected. I was brought up to believe that everyone deserves the best start in life possible, and grammar schools - as just one tier of education - have always offered this chance to those prepared to work hard.

Come on Willetts - start listening to what real people in this country actually believe in and want out of a future government !

Suzy Gale

Once again we have a key element in general conservative thought and approach with regard to the benefits of Grammar Schools and Camerons/Willets denials. Does Cameron really want to blow the Tory Party out of the water. He's had a multitude of positive potential actions that would devastate the Labour Party and has BLOWN the lot.

Suzy
You say "everyone" deserves the best start in life.
What about the people who don't pass for the grammar?
The only way "everyone" can have the best start is through well-resourced comprehensive education.
Your support for grammar schools assumes your children will pass the entrance exam.
That is either pie in the sky - or it means that you hsve a privileged background.
Thus proving the point that grammar schools prevent social mobility.

Miles, I'm struggling to see how you arrive at the conclusion that Grammar schools prevent social mobility as long as entrance is by ability alone. Streaming by ability only, rather than by income or geography, results in the kids who are more academically gifted attending one sort of school which we choose to call Grammar schools and allows everyone, including folk like me from a poor working class background, the chance of an education which matches our academic potential with other kids of similar abilities - that fact alone is priceless. The answer to the problem that some of the alternative schools fail to help the other children who do not get Grammar places is not to scrap Grammar schools, but to improve the others and provide an education which matches their ability and stretches them to achieve as much as they can, and equip them with skills which will help them support themselves as adults. If 70% of the education system is less than successful you don't solve the problem by scrapping the 30% which is working. I have the same frustration when I hear cries that independent schools should be scrapped because they are devisive - this country needs all the well educated kids it can produce right now, and getting rid of ANY school which is producing young adults with the skills they need is probably not the best way of achieving that.

Improve the poor schools, build on the succesful ones.

John
Your post implies a differential in the type of education given in the grammar and non-grammar schools.
So you have decided people's whole futures on an arbitrary date when they are ten/eleven.

I escaped from a Waifs and Strays Home over 60 years ago by passing a scholarship to go to a Grammar School. My future prior to that was to train as a gardener or go in to the Army. After a spell in the RAF as Officer Aircrew I had a long career in civil aviation at senior level.David Willets is my MP but he will not get my vote at the next General Election unless he changes his tune.Incidentally my son had his Grammar School education disrupted when they closed the school half way through his sixth form studies.He sends his three daughters to private school since there are no grammar schools left in his area.

We need more of the population better educated to compete in the modern high tech world. The comments from some to the effect that why don't we train more plumbers for those that can't make the grammar, is rdiculous and misses the point. We are not going to survive as a leading nation unless we improve all our schools not a few and indeed we won't hold the fabric of the nation together either (there is a growing underclass) if the divide between haves and have-nots gets any wider! Conservatives want to help as amny people as possible to do better for themselves. Willetts is actually saying this and saying we should learn from schools like grammars and introduce streaming. The debate seems to have become emotional rather than reasoned and open-minded,

Matt

Gordon Brown is about to announce the reintroduction of Grammar schools and a major building program to create new Grammar schools across the country...

The disadvantage of streaming pupils within a single comprehensive school is that in order to have sufficient numbers of pupils for each appropriate stream and in order to provide all the necessary subjects the school has to be very large. The fact that comprehensive schools are often overly large is a not insignificant factor in them having discipline problems.

The Conservatives new policy is not well thought out.

David Cameron and David Willetts have decided not to extend grammars and to stop talking about existing grammar schools for one very simple reason. There are no votes to be gained in it. If anything, votes would be lost by it! John Major will tell you all about that!

Readers who have been wondering why DC has chosen to alienate huge swathes of core supporters with dismissive statements about pushy middle class parents and delusional supporters of Grammar Schools may not have noted that in the last few hours he has also said that he thinks he might oppose nuclear power, (at a time when we are about to become completely dependent on imported energy and thus dangerously exposed as a country as never before), and that he would consider attacking Iran.

One has to wonder........

Let's pause for a moment and think about what the polls might be trying to tell us.

Let's assume that the mantra that we need to "seize the middle ground" is correct, and why not? In the sense that we need to attract more voters and are unlikely ever to appeal to the rabid left I have no issue with that.

Who in CCHQ is claiming to know what the "middle ground" want? Why are they so convinced they are correct?

Who in CCHQ is telling us that the "middle ground" don't want to hear about immigration, Labour's catastrophic illegal invasion of Iraq, lower taxes, and a far tougher line on crime, for example?

If the drive to seize the middle ground is correct, then maybe what the polls are trying to tell CCHQ is that they're catastrophically wrong about what it will take to do that.

Does CCHQ really, truthfully believe that in pubs and clubs across Britain people are sitting over their beers and discussing what needs to be done in Rwanda? Or how Brown doesn't understand the inner angsts of hoodies? Or where they can buy their next windmill?

The "middle ground" that I know are deeply concerned about immigration, more than at any time I can remember - so where's the Conservative offering to win them over?

Where?

If this is true, if CCHQ are wrong about what the "middle ground" are looking for in a government, then I suspect that what is compounding our woes is that Brown DOES understand what the middle ground are crying out for, and while he has no intention of providing it in any meaningful way, he is quite happy to deliver well spun morsels to make sure that the middle ground are on board the Labour party come the next election.

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