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Why does Cameron call grammar schools "grammars"? I never did when I was at one. I know he did not go to one but we don't call the likes of Eton "publics" do we? They are "grammar schools".

And his use of the word "says" I assume means "means".

He is patronising in referring to those that "might just get it."

I assume he did not write his finals papers in this style. It reminds me of Tony Blair's faux estuarine. And it's very condescending.

I have to disagree with Cameron here - when he says we shouldn't 'bring back' grammar schools, that implies that recent Conservative governments had a policy of introducing them. Even Mrs T, at the height of her considerable powers, did not embark on a nationwide programme of creating new selective schools.

The overall tone of this education package is decidely Conservative - streaming, discipline, making it easier to expel unruly pupils, and so on. Anyone who thinks this is somehow proof that Cameron is unConservative is not looking at the broader picture.

And it is politically naïve as it just says “we’ll help a few more escape failing schools rather than turn them round for all children.”

It's this sort of comment from Cameron that annoys me. The implication is always that Conservative were just for the few, and did not benefit the many. It seems to discount the possibility that those who want the return of grammar schools may not want Secondary Moderns as were, but instead think their role needs redressing. It just stikes me as a lazy and tendentious way to dismiss the views of those who are supposed to be on his side, especially as it reinforces leftist views of Tory negatives.

Hurrah! James Hellyer returns. We have missed you.

Does the pledge to have more Church Schools mean that there will be more Islamic Schools? How will this help integration?

But it was Cameron/Willets that quite unnecessarily brought grammar schools in to the argument in the first place. If he had wanted to discuss setting and making schools better he could have done so. He must have known that grammar schools have many defenders and people who are grateful for them. We might be prepared to let the matter drop. We understand the argument but it was Cameron that rubbed our noses in it. To be surprised at our protests is either disingenuous or very stupid or most likely a put up job which in our ferocity has backfired on him and served him right.

"unchallengeable rights for heads to exclude difficult pupils"

And do what with the children once excluded?

What would you do with two below LEA average High Schools in the same town in order to improve them to at least the average in the County? Is this the job of the LEA, local area Councillors and Educators or central government?

Cameron doesn't get it. You don't need to bring back the 11-plus! Just bring back those wonderful grammar schools - which gave working class children like me a chance to get on.

Malcolm - you see that DC's emphasis on all the traditional elements here is just what I've been saying all day! The aim is to reverse Labour's disaster with traditional teaching, choice, setting, and discipline - to make all schools as good as grammar schools.

Grammar schools were unpopular with parents? Has Dave ever been to Kent?

"allowing churches, voluntary bodies and others to open new schools..."

...as long as they're not "grammars", of course!

Bring back democracy in the Party.
Bring back Conservatism in the Party.
Bring back William Hague!

I don't like David Camerons choice of language here. The Daily Telegraph leader stated their opinion but not in a way that could be described as hysterical by any stretch of the imagination.
David must surely be aware that there are significant numbers of people that profoundly disagree with the rejection of selection and replacement by non selective City Academies and are feeling a bit bruised today. Rather than demonstrating an understanding of this disagreement and seeking to bring these people onside he states that we 'are fighting battles of the past'. I really really hope that David Cameron is not making secondary education his 'clause 4 moment'. It is far too important a subject for that.

Good on Cameron for sticking to his guns. The hysterical Telegraph reaction has Heffer's fingerprints all over it.

It's still a good paper. Are they helping or hindering the party's cause with this stance? If I were cynical i'd think it was all coordinated!

Cameron is right this is a fuss over nothing, it was part of his leadership pledge that no more Grammar Schools would be created, one of the reasons I voted for him, it is just those feeling disenfranchised with the leadership offering a forward looking party have got an axe to grind.

This is pathetic, the party is being nowhere near radical enough. Cameron is obviously looking to core supporters to abandon the party just so he can proclaim it has changed. This policy is not in the best interests of the country it is purely presentational. You can build however many academies you like, it is what goes on inside them that is the most important thing.

Malcolm is right. Describing the coverage and comments as hysterical is plain wrong.

In a more relaxed frame of mind he normally patronises those who views he does not share by describing them as "banging on". It's amazing the frequency with which he uses it. I don't know where he picked the expression up from as it does sound a bit dated (and potentially comic).

likes of Eton "publics" do we?

No we call them "pubs"

Cameron should wonder why we need to Bring Back the Conservatives they conserve nothing. Peter Hitchens has a perfectly respectable article today showing why we have the most Left-wing Labour Government ever....but a Conservative Opposition wishing to emulate it.

The Conservative Party as a traditionalist party is obviously dead and defunct. Grammar Schools are older than any political party going back to Elizabeth I and seem to have been despised by the public school gentry during the reign of Elizabeth II.......then again the era of Elizabeth I was when England started its ascent to greeatness and the reign of Elizabeth II is when it sank into mediocrity and a cult of failure

Are grammar schools unpopular? Some of my family and friends went to grammar schools and I don't remember them or any of their parents being unhappy with the education provided. Quite the opposite in fact. I have never heard anyone criticise the education they received at a grammar school.

Q: And if they are so unpopular how come the house prices in grammar school catchment areas are so high?

A: Due to the popularity of the school.

I hope that if churches are allowed to open schools (so long as they're not grammar schools of course) any Conservative government will allow all faiths to have their own schools - islamic schools, jewish schools, scientology schools etc

And which 'voluntary bodies and others' are we talking about exactly? Is this an open ticket for anyone with the funds to set up a school?

But it was Cameron/Willets that quite unnecessarily brought grammar schools in to the argument in the first place.

Those were my thoughts listening to the Jeremy Vine Show yesterday. Grammar schools haven't been a major part of Conservative education policy for decades. While it's true that Major pledged a "grammar school in every town", and Hague wanted schools to be able to opt to become grammar schools, or David Davis pledged a grand total of about six grammar schools during the leadership contest, there's never been any serious or well publicised campaign by the party to bring them back. This leads to the obvious conclusion that yesterday's anouncements were more about a symbolic break with what was perceived as an exclusionary past, rather than a bold new policy future.

The proposals themselves seem sound enough, it's just a shame that their launch has either been a PR shambles or a deliberate attempt to pick a fight in order to illustrate the party's "change agenda".

There is merit to Cameron's argument.

The number of pupils going to grammer school is quite low relative to state schools.

I think the message is, he doesn't have a problem with them. But the conservative party isn't going to commit itself to build more Grammer schools over state schools or city academies. This is perfectly acceptable and many governments over the past few decades have done so.

The only difference is that Willets and Cameron have been honest enough to admit that new Grammer schools is not a pledge they are willing to give.

I'm pleased Cameron has released this rebuttal. What really grated about the Telegraph's response to all this was Alice Thomson's misconstruction of Willets' speech.

For those who don't think Cameron is pursuing a conservative approach, I highly recommend reading Kieron O'Hara's book 'After Blair' (2007 edition). That book is not alone in making several valid points about the consequences of lurching to far to the right. If the Heffers of this world have their way, the next election will be a repeat of 2001 and 2005, and a step closer to the political wilderness.

"ThePrince" 1645:
"...it was part of his leadership pledge that no more Grammar Schools would be created, one of the reasons I voted for him..."

Are you absolutely sure about this? The reason I ask is that it has often been said recently that DC pledged in his leadership campaign not to open any more grammar schools. I have been unable to find a clear reference to this until after the leadership election. I am, as I have said before, happy to stand corrected. Please could someone identify a web link which contains a leadership campaign pledge on this.


I am delighted to see a clear pledge to open more Church schools. It must have been an oversight that David Willetts did not mention Church schools once during his speech.

Many of the other proposals are very sensible. What I don't understand is why a party committed to localism and choice is determined not to allow locals to put more grammar schools into the mix. I don't understand why it would have to be "a few grammars" instead of many. And if grammar schools aren't working, why is the Party prepared to tolerate them at all? How does it propose to help those schools in areas where grammar schools still exist? As a resident in such an area, with sons at primary school who may or may not get into the grammar school, this is a very pressing question.

DC says: “The way to win the fight for aspiration is to put those things that worked in grammars – aggressive setting to stretch bright pupils, whole class teaching, strong discipline to name but three – in all schools.” I have posted elsewhere that it seems to me that the plan is to make every school more like a grammar school. Grammar schools are very popular amongst those families with children in them, and with many others as well. That being so “every school like a grammar school” would surely have been a better way to present this policy. Let’s define ourselves by reference to what we are in favour of, not what we are against – by being for things not against them – ring any bells?

I know I am biased, but isn't it Cameron who sound hysterical?

If you haven't seen Matt's cartoon in Todays Telegraph: "I can't believe it's not the Labour Party", go see it (it is not possible to link to it).

As many people have commented already this is a mess of Cameron and Willets own making. They have no one to blame but themselves. As many people have also commented why pick a needless fight with defenders of Grammar Schools?

The whole thing strikes me as rather odd. On the one hand it is okay to select on academic ability in school but not out of school. On the one hand it is okay to establish new faith schools but not to set up new Grammar Schools.

Why does Cameron also want to pick a fight with the Daily Telegraph?

As I said the whole thing is very odd, quite depressing and rather worrying.

I went to a fee paying school under the assisted places scheme; I know what it's like for bright children from poor backgrounds to get a good education. Therefore I applaud Cameron for his rebuttal; good education should not be exclusive, it should be universal.

The problem we have is not with the schools; it is with what is being taught and how it is being taught. The main problem is our 'one size fits all' education system. We need a diversity of education within, not outwith existing schools. We need to bring back streaming and gender suited assessment (to help boys catch up). Friends and siblings should be able to attend the same school, but be taught in different ways according to their strengths and needs.

I think the issue goes much further than just schools. I was a first generation grammar school boy in 1959 and then first generation university student. I started work in 1968 on a higher annual salary than my father ever earned in his life. I believe that many of the state sponsored ladders that enabled my wife and I to progress in life have been kicked away. Fortunately we were able to provide an alternative for our daughter from our own generated wealth by going without some of the luxuries. I despair at both the government and now the opposition who do not appear to inhabit the same world as us mere mortals. We had an expression of "all brains and no common sense". I believe politicians have what could be a terminal case of this disease.

I do not believe Cameron when he says he is surprised unless of course he is beginning to believe the stuff he comes out with.

People should read the speech.

David Willett's argument is that grammar schools would not be able to promote social mobility as the poor-but-bright children who would benefit are already far behind their peers at the age of 11. They would be unable to gain entrance to grammar schools or to benefit from them.

He quoted very specific examples of the difference in family life and children's experiences from his own education to the present day.

This is why he drew the conclusion that grammar schools are not the solution - particularly since over subscribed comprehensives in good areas actually function almost as grammar schools.

The latter part of his speech concentrated on improving the supply of good schools by making it easier for private charities, or even groups of parents, to open new schools. This, of course, would be anathema to local education authorities. They would prefer a monopoly, schools 95% full, and the ability to direct pupils to bad schools.

So read the speech before saying "Bring back".

'the party would not go back to a policy of opening new grammar schools'

So how would a Conservative government respond to a situation like that here in Buckingham, where the existing (excellent) Grammar School is full to overflowing, and thanks to Prescott's dream of concreting over the South East we have thousands of new houses due to be built in the area over the next few years ? Given that we are committed to maintaning academic selection,
what is the alternative to opening a new Grammar School ? I don't think the above comment nmakes any sense.

Also, has it not occurred to Cameron that the reason Grammar schools are predominantly in 'leafy' areas is because that it is in those areas that Conservative education authorities heroically fought tooth and nail to preserve them in the 1970's ? They could be just as effective and successful in other areas if they were allowed to exist.

Sorry for the multiple posts earlier! I had a few computer problems.

I just want to add, should grammar schools be established are they to be built? Are they to be created from comprehensives and if so do those already there get booted out if they are not to the academic level of their peers? This is exactly the reason why streaming within existing schools, coupled with a review of the curriculum is the right way to approach educational diversity.

I don't think anyone is saying "bring back Grammar Schools"; they already exist in many parts of the country. What people are saying is that the Grammar School model is a good one and that we should expand it across the country.

According to Mr Cameron, we must beware the potential labelling of children as sheep and goats. But he forgot to assign an animal to represent children accepted at Eton!

Mr Cameron sounds so distressed for the sheep and goats, you'd think that to be consistent, he'd ban private education. After all, Eton does not help the poor very much.

“we’ll help a few more escape failing schools rather than turn them round for all children.”

What is this supposed to mean? Is he suggesting that those of us who support grammar schools don't want to improve the other schools? It rather seems that way. What an arrogant tone to take.Apparantly those of us who support Grammar Schools, don't want other schools to improve or have sets.
I am all for streaming in state schools (it should have been done a long time ago), but I also think that mixed academic teaching doesn't work. Grammar schools are different to a top set, they become a centre for excellence with a very hard working ethos. One size does not fit all.

The latter part of his speech concentrated on improving the supply of good schools by making it easier for private charities, or even groups of parents, to open new schools. This, of course, would be anathema to local education authorities.

Yes in Bradford there are moves to create a Muslim Boys Academy run on Islamic principles but the LEA is being obstructive.....Willetts will not doubt push for the Muslim Community to have its Marmaduke Pickthall Academy.

There is also a shortfall in Girls Schools in Bradford which is of great concern to the Muslim Community.

I think Willetts ought to pledge his support for these schools in Bradford and tell the LEA it will be abolished

The State is far to involved in schooling as it is, they should all be given their independance to control their own finances, staff, disipline and workings.

Came across a facinating school a while ago called Christ's Hospital which is outside Horsham, its a large independant boarding school, buts its also a Charity school set up 400 odd years ago and still carries out its primary goals. Full fee's are 14grand, yet a very large portion of the pupils come from very disadvantaged background mainly from inner city London. They get taken out of their harmfull enviroment and are set in leafy green Sussex with fantastic buildings and teachers. A mix of good teaching, lots of sports and a safe and controlled enviroment with strong traditions and moral guidance. This results in kids from broken homes in Peckham to come out the school and goto top universities. If Cameron wants to improve the country he should visit the school and see what elements can be replicated. I was rather impressed by the place.

Here's a reminder of Cameron's convictions.

June 26 2005 subject Grammar Schools:

They're a good thing. "The fact that grammar schools continue to improve at a faster rate shows how wrong it is for Labour to continue undermining them."

Jan 15 2006. subject Grammar Schools:

"I think the prospect of bringing back grammar schools has always been wrong and I've never supported it.

Both these comments were made by David Cameron, what is worse they are just two of a whole host of U-Turns, that come the next GE Labour will be firing on all cylinders to throw at the electorate to illustrate just how consistent Mr Cameron is.

How can the electorate take anything he says seriously?
Not only is he Anthony Blair mark2 he is John Kerry mark2.
Do you think by the time of the next GE he may just have renegued on this also.

He pledged to bring consistency to a Tory party dogged by U-turns and chaos over fanciful policies - where is it?

I note there is no 'bring back the secondary modern' campaign.

As far as I can tell, none of the proponents of the grammar school have anything constructive to say about what they would do with the 70% of children who do not gain entry to a grammar.

I think a large number of grammar school advocates assume secondary modern alumni will do ok, because there are plenty of vacancies for steam locomotive firemen, bus conductors, agricultural labourers and coal miners.

I gave up buying the Daily Telegraph 12 months ago. It's a dinosaur and its attacks on David Cameron are a disgrace IMHO


You think its attacks on Cameron's spin are a disgrace? The fact is as a member I don't feel that I can trust a word the party say and I don't know what direction it aims for. This is what the Telegraph has been pointing out. What ever happened to sticking to your convictions, rather than selling out to any policy for power.

The welcome bit of Bring Backery is that it's bought back James Hellyer.
Great to have you back James!

With regards to Simon Chapman 17:21 I heard at a husting.
And whoever brought up a comparison between the Queen Elizabeths its a bad one QE1 reigned over at what is regarded as the worst period in Britain in terms of quality of life for its citizens ... worse than the industrial period and thats saying something, so I'm gald if QE2 reign is mediocore at the expense of "presitige" if people aren't dying left, right and center.

"But it was Cameron/Willets that quite unnecessarily brought grammar schools in to the argument in the first place. .... He must have known that grammar schools have many defenders and people who are grateful for them. We might be prepared to let the matter drop. We understand the argument but it was Cameron that rubbed our noses in it...."

This suggests to me that Cameron has been looking for his 'Clause 4 Moment'.

Just as Labour had largely forgotten about seriously nationalising the industries (thus Blair getting rid of Clause 4 was mostly symbolic), the Tories had largely forgotten about Grammar schools (who honestly believed Cameron would build more of them - indeed any Tory leader?).

Cameron has picked a symbolic fight to show to the centre that the Tories are changing. The more right-wingers get angry, and the more the Telegraph voices its disapproval, the more Cameron will know he may just be making his party more popular with the WIDER electorate.

I was a Grammar school boy and regret that no more will ever be built, but I guess it's time to forget the past and look at what can help state education in the 21st century.

Bring back a conservative leader and team to lead the Conservative party

Chris Read at 1842, you have made exactly the same false assumption as Cameron and Willetts have made in forming their policy. That assumption is that "grammar schools" necessarily equates to "the old education system." Notice the extensive use of the phrase "bring back" or rather "don't bring back." They were looking at grammar schools as they were, not as they should be.

In the old education system, you are right that the minority got a good education while the majority got nothing at secondary moderns. Intellectual apartheid. Therefore Willetts has assumed that "bringing back grammar schools" means bringing back this system.

It doesn't. In Germany they have 3 streams of school without even having an 11-plus, or doing away with comprehensive schools, or consigning the non-grammer school kids to the scrapheap. Pupils go to a stream of school based on a teacher's recommendation, so that well-off parents and primary schools can't work the system with test prep, and you can move streams at any age as they recognise you can't make a judgement at age 11. None of that means you shouldn't provide an environment for the brightest to be stretched and to thrive. At the moment we don't have that and yet 70% or more still get education as sub-standard as the old secondary moderns were.

Robson: The more right-wingers get angry, and the more the Telegraph voices its disapproval, the more Cameron will know he may just be making his party more popular with the WIDER electorate.

I think you are right as there was no reason for starting this particular fight. However, we rightwingers appreciate such efforts as they can well bring about Cameron's downfall or cause the Party to be split into two; the latter is beginning to look inevitable.

Joseph 18.37 - Cameron was not being inconsistent. To paraphrase ..."Grammar Schools have done a good job and Labour should not undermine them, but we will not build any new ones"

Pupils go to a stream of school based on a teacher's recommendation, so that well-off parents and primary schools can't work the system with test prep, and you can move streams at any age as they recognise you can't make a judgement at age 11

Not quite. Germany has no universal standard for the Abitur - it varies by Land.

They have the Hauptschule which is a sink and they are discussing abolishing them.

Bremen and Social Democrat areas have Gesamtschule - Comprehensive - and lower academic standards.

Southern Germany - has Gymnasien and far higher standards.

German employers complain about low standards of numeracy, literacy, and motivation.

Cities like Berlin and Cologne have large Turkish and Arab populations in schools with poor German skills and an Islamic awareness for separate schooling for girls and fully-clothed swimming.

German teachers are shot, bullied, and ageing. Many want to get out fast. Discipline is poor and the system is rigged towards the affluent and middle class as teachers skew recommendations on promotion to Gymnasien according to parental background.

In short the Germans are having real introspection on Education with the SPD trying to centralise control and force Comprehensives on everyone, and the Southern CDU states resisting on States-Rights basis

I think that one thing is clear from Mr Cameron's response and that is that the only hysteria displayed today has been his and not the Daily Telegraph's.
Mr Cameron cracks under pressure: to use the phrase du jour, he is not fit for purpose.

The grammar school policy could have been hidden in the small print of the Willetts speech. But a Big Thing was made of it. If unintentioned, it makes them look PR eejits. If they meant it to dominate the debate, it was for the cynical reason that CCHQ wanted a sacred cow to be seen getting culled in public, to howls of anguish from the conservatives in the Conservative Party.

If John Major thought he had a problem with the "bastards" between 92 and 97, it will be nothing compared to the sheer hell that Dave will find erupting if he sneaks a small majority, which I consider a likely outcome at the next election. At this rate, he'll deserve every bit of it; the point of the conservative party is to espouse conservative policies and commend them to the electorate - when we do this well and the voters reckon we deserve it, we win. The party is not a vehicle for individuals to achieve power by espousing anything that seems likely to appeal in the short term. That way, the party and the electorate gets defrauded.

Maybe the grammar thing didn't deserve the furore that followed, but if Cameron continues his antagonistic approach to long-held conservative principles, out of vanity and the cult of the modern, he'll get a fight which I doubt he'll win.


Re: Joseph 18.37 - Cameron was not being inconsistent.

I am baffled by your statement. How can Cameron praise the grammar schools in June 2005 one year?

Quote: They're a good thing. "The fact that grammar schools continue to improve at a faster rate shows how wrong it is for Labour to continue undermining them."

Then 6 months later in Jan 15 2006.

Quote:"I think the prospect of bringing back grammar schools has always been wrong and I've never supported it.

Can you please then explain what your definition of consistency is because I am at a total loss to understand your logic.

He critisised Labour as in his opinion then they were a good thing, then he decides they are so good he does not want them back.
I do not think he has heard the old saying.
"If it aint broke don't fix it"

Sorry not to respond earlier Tory T. For some reason my computer wouldn't let me post here this afternoon.
Of course no sensible person could disagree with the idea of more stringent discipline,head teachers being able to expel disruptive pupils etc.Even though neither Cameron or Willetts have given us any idea how they are going to achieve this.
Willetts central point yesterday did not deal with that, his central point dealt with the replacement of existing schools with City Academies. Again and again I asked you or anyone else to explain to me why City Academies would be better than existing systems when their results are so mixed.(That's being charitable actually, some academies are delivering truly lamentable results). Again and again you ignored me ,why?

Tory T: to make all schools as good as grammar schools.

And afterwards, Cameron will give CPR to a mummie to save its life.

Joseph, you've acknowledged you are a Labour supporter. You must be the only person in Britain who believes that Gordon Brown has handled pensions well.
I wanted to ask you a simple question. Why if you support grammar schools as I do have you supported a party that has spent the past 40 years trying to destroy them and has in the past 10 done more than any other modern day government to dumb down secondary education?

Robson: The more right-wingers get angry, and the more the Telegraph voices its disapproval, the more Cameron will know he may just be making his party more popular with the WIDER electorate.

Exactly the opposite he is making himself look just what he is a flip-flopper. lightweight and a chameleon.
In just over a month he will be facing the biggest challenge of his life. The new Labour Leader not only is a formidable heavy-weight he is also a workaholic with enormous brain power and a lot of political experience.
It will not take people long to realise the strength of Brown against the fickleness of Cameron. Running a Country is not a beauty competition.
Brown does not need to pick a fight with any of his party wings, after the local elections they seen the abyss, did not like what they were looking at and now Cameron will be fighting a united Labour party. No more TB's-GB's.

I have never stated that Brown has handled pensions well, what I did in fact say was, he demolished the whole of the Tory front bench during the pensions debate.
Expert analysis from even a Tory advisor stated that Pensions Holidays were a contributing factor, it was not all down to Brown.
What I also said was the figures that were being bandied around were definately being exaggerated out of all proportion, they were growing by the second.
I make no apology for supporting Labour and I am sure that if you were to ask any Tory supporter if they agreed with every policy the party put forward, they would have to answer honestly NO. So why should I be any different or is that just a Tory prerogative?
Incidentally I did not agree with the Iraq war either and I will always support grammar schools as I was educated at one.
I may be a labour supporter but it might also come as a complete surprise to you, I can think and make decisions for myself. Labour is not into brainwashing yet.

I was lucky enough to go to a grammar school. It wasn't perfect, but it gave me a good education which has enabled me to do okay in life. I am forever grateful for that.
At the time, my parents could not afford a fee paying school. We were not poor, but not rich enough for the Public School sector. I am so grateful that I was given the chance for a better education despite not being wealthy.

Cameron, of course, is wealthy. He went to the one of the most expensive public schools in the country. I presume that he will elect to use his wealth to send his children down the same path. He has every right so to do. What about the rest of us?

By his rejection of the Grammar School system (and saying he won't close existing ones does not excuse this - he won't commit to extenting them), he is denying the opportunity for millions of talented children from middle class homes to benefit from a better quality of education. The people who he is denying this opportunity to should be his core support. It smacks of elitism, something that the Tory party does not need - I'm all right Jack. My kids will be privately educated, sod the rest of you.

It is so Blairite - a whole cabinet who benefited from free University education raising the drawbridge, the rest of you can pay for it.

My son is bright enough to attend a grammar school if one was available. Of course, it isn't. The standard of state schools in our area is poor. I see no option but to utilise equity in my house to send him to a fee paying school. I look to a Tory party to look after hard working middle income people like myself. Sadly, this is yet another reason for a life long Tory like myself to seriously question if I can, in all conscience, support the party of Cameron and his increasingly left wing cadre. It's very sad.

I wrote these comments to the Telegraph to show that the Grammar School squabble has no place in the major developments shaping our educational system. I am afraid it is a long piece. D.Y.
It is very encouraging that the Conservatives are turning their backs on the battles of the past -- grammar schools and selection -- and recognising the new situation that exists in education today. Three revolutionary developments have seen the light of day during the Blair government and these offer the opportunity for a constructive consensus in education policy and provide a launch pad for the restoration of excellence in schools, during a future Conservative government.

The first revolution in educational thinking has been the realisation that the Wilson model of comprehensive education with its monolithic structure had disastrously reduced opportunities for those at the top end and the bottom end of the school population. The contraction and dilution of the curriculum, with the aim of making it common to all, had left the best pupils with insufficient challenge, insufficiently prepared for the next stage of education and, at the same time, had failed to engage the least academic pupils with studies of relevance to their lives.

The new vocational courses to be introduced if 2008 will cater for those at present neglected and will offer a new wealth of choice at all levels of schooling. The introduction of these courses, establishes a principle that should be acclaimed by the Tory party. It is the principle of differentiation, replacing the dogma of uniformity. Conservative policy should ensure that this involves not only vocational specialisms, but also the consolidation and restoration of academic specialisms, and of traditional academic courses.

There will be a diversity of attractive career paths open to all pupils and the division will be done by self-selection, that is to say by choice. The old system of selection by external examiners will be completely ruled out and there should certainly be no once and for all career determination at the age of, say, thirteen. The free- no doubt guided- choice has to be flexible and open to adjustments and even radical revision. Ideally this would be done by changing sets in one comprehensive organisation large enough to offer all the options. These reforms can have cross-party support because of the second revolution. A Labour Prime Minister has proved to be a brave advocate of diversity in his Academy programme.

The third revolution is only just dawning, but it offers the means of delivering the new educational choice. It stems from lessons learnt in the planning of the new vocational options. When the new vocational provisions are introduced, it will be impossible to sprinkle this massive investment in specialist teaching and expensive resources across all schools. Stand alone vocational centres will have to be designated and established for use by groups of neighbouring schools within their daily timetables. Cross-school curriculum integration will be an essential pre-requisite. The Education Secretary has recognised this and has asked schools to join in consortiums to share the new courses.

Conservative policy should be to extend this inter school choice across the whole curriculum. Schools would be invited to organise themselves into voluntary consortiums, with the aim of being able to offer to all pupils in the participating schools the full range of curricular options, with classes available for pupils of different levels of ability and commitment.

To achieve this, the school timetable might be divided into two parts. There could be, for example, three core education days at the home school and two days of specialist choices at a neighbouring school, if necessary. Pupil performance would be re-assessed annually with adjustments made for individual progress. However the organisation will evolve from experience

The organisation required for this might seem complex, but, in fact, the task would be elementary for a standard computer using Structured Query Language. Educationists can breathe a sigh of relief and hand this over to professional managers, of academic background or otherwise, at the head of each consortium. The successful consortiums with their wealth of resources and opportunities will have no equal and will end the decades of struggle by distraught parents in search of an adequate school.

Re Andrew Mays post at 1900.
Its all very well for the right wing of the Tory Party to spit venom at DC with his more centrist approach. What they forget is that you have to be in power before you can do anything.
Has 10 yrs in the Wilderness not taught the Tory Party anything.

In 1979 I spent months working and canvassing for my local constituency , because I believed everything Margaret Thatcher wanted to achieve. That was then, this is now. Times have changed. A right wing agenda IMHO would lead to AT LEAST another 5 yrs in opposition. If that's what you want... hang on to your principled views, but I it isn't going to get the Tory Party into power.

Cameron's gone too far with his grammar schools policy. People who support grammar schools may as well vote Labour or Lib Dem now.

Bernard Wiggins: So your viewpoint is that we say anything now to get elected, then do something different? That is not unprincipled, it's downright dishonest. Are you sure you're in the correct party? Your opinion seems entirely NuLab to me.

The policy is old. The sudden fuss is very strange.

Nevertheless, I want grammar schools back. The only acceptable grounds not to bring them back are financial grounds, then only whilst we're paying off debts accrued by the profligate incumbent rulers in the left wing corner.

If they say they'll reopen/build half a dozen old-fashioned proper straightforward grammar schools, I'll join the party and do leafletting and such. Until they do this, I'll grumble, but they'll have to try a bit harder if they want to lose my vote. They could always try Scottish independence, or perhaps giving Gibraltar to Spain?

I think you will find that even a lot of Labour supporters would very much welcome quite a bit of right wing thinking especially around law and order, immigration, human rights and the dreaded PC brigade. I for one feel that things have gone a bit too far to the left and the balance needs to be addressed.
Those principled views are to be admired not dismissed out of hand and IMHO people have had enough of what Cameron is spouting now and we need things tightened up.
Take this from a Labour supporter, Cameron and his ideas is not going to fit the bill, he is just another dose of the same.
What Cameron is doing now was what Hague should have done, but did not, he has missed the train again.
People want to move on from that and Cameron certainly has not got the answer to the problems for him to gain power, he has to attract more than just Tory votes, this approach certainly is not centrist it is "say anything do anything" just get elected at any price even if it means abandoning lifelong principles, how distasteful is that?.

Re jon white at 22.10

You twist my words, and you know what you are saying is dishonest. What was right in 1979 doesn't automatically have to be right in 2007. Times have changed and if your party doesn't change with it, you end up in oblivion. Smash the Unions was right in 79, but it isn't right in 2007, the Unions are toothless.
Its also insulting to ask me if I'm in the right Party. What did you do to elect Conservative Councillors In May, I wore my shoes out canvassing, I went to our count, So dont you lecture me on which Party I should be in. Its a broad Church with differing views, I just happen to have moved to a more centrist approach that I think is right for this time . You may not agree, and you are entitled to you view as am I.

I believe the Labour Government recommended the use of synthetic phonetics in primary schools last year so nothing for us to get excited about on that score.

As usual following not leading.

The reporting and reaction to this debate is in part hysterical and has become silly. I think Cameron is right to point this out. The proposals to take better methods (many learnt from Grammar Schools) to all schools is spot on and the right way forward. I also have to say there are elements in and around the party (including the DT) that are aptly described as "go backers". I honestly think that Conservatives are at their worst when they think Conservatism is only about preserving the past or turning the clock back. The really high points in our history were when we were the opposite and were open minded, forward looking and innovative.


All the proposed ideas on teaching are those tried and tested methods of the past.So why should we not bring back grammar schools? If by some miracle we could get the grammar school ethos into the whole of the education system then all would benefit. We must not penalise the able simply because others cannot accept the disciplines of the grammar schools. The public schools seem to manage even with a wide ability intake. Is the state system incapable of doing the same?


Your point was that we shouldn't criticize Cameron's 'centrist' (I would say leftist, but that's irrelevant) policies BECAUSE it will hamper our election prospects. I reject that totally. I think that we should be straight with the electorate and tell them what we believe. That is what Conservatism stands for. My comment about what party you are in was simply that I believe that NuLab have done exactly that - lied to the country.

I commend you for your actions in the local elections. Our party needs dedicated people, and for your work you have my respect.

Of course times change. Of course it's not 1979 now. BUT values remain. In 1979 Mrs. T was clear in what she put to the elctorate. Many of the wets in the party didn't like it, but she said what she believed. I don't think that Cameron should say anything to get elected PM. His first duty is to his party.

Roger, well if we do use the right methods to improve most schools then it might be said they are modern day grammar schools in all but name. That is why this whole debate has become utterly ridiculous. What Willetts has said is the right way forward for education and will help more children not just a few. Also there is no suprise that no more traditional grammar schools will be built. That has been Conservative policy for a long time, long before Cameron.


The list of things the Ed posts at the top of this page that DC and David Willets do want to do for schools is good and I'm sure far better than Labour would do. But even my half-brain (I didn't pass the 11+) understands grammar schools must aid social mobility by enabling children from lower-paid families to benefit from an academically more demanding education. So they must potentially provide equality of opportunity. (Although is it more of a problem for the State to try to engineer equality of outcome?) Perhaps one reason not so many children from poorer backgrounds have a grammar education is there aren't enough such schools! As one post-er suggested, it was more likely to be Conservative authorities in leafier areas who kept them.

It seems ridiculous to imply that those who advocate grammar schools do not want to improve all schools. Opposition to selection sounds like 1960s socialist clap-trap. Maybe if there was a “grammar school in every town” with some form of selection, it would help motivate primary schools to drive up standards to give as many of their pupils as possible a chance to get into the grammar.

Jon, Actually its not true that Mrs T was clear in 1979 about the policies which she later became famous for. The detail came later. She was a great leader but not perfect and she changed her mind on occasions as well. You say that she said what she thought was right but so has DC if we are fair and sometimes people (apparently you) don't like it. Same difference there then. Lets be clear I do not agree with everything DC says (I am much cooler on the green stuff to be honest!) but there are elemnts that simply what to stay stuck in the past and jump on anything to criticise him. Getting elected is a complex mix of saying what you think is right but yes you do have to get elected to represent poeople and make a difference. Representing people means you have to be broader than traditional right wing. I think DC is right to move to what is called "the centre" although this is a generalised term. His approach has been reasonably vindicated with better results although there are ways we could improve of course. At the end of the day ordinary people in the streets just want good local schools, hospitals etc to go to. They don't want endless theoretical divides in debates. Willetts has produced practical ideas which include ideas drawn from measures in grammar schools but have been put together to help the majority of schools not a few. I suspect the vast majority of people outside this blog want that sort of approach.


Forward looking, open minded and innovative are good things for us to be, however if they continue to not be anything at all to do with conservatism then they are in themselves pointless.

"ThePrince" at 1906:

Are you really sure that you heard DC announce his grammar schools policy during the leadership election?

I have often heard it said that DC made his position on grammar schools clear in the leadership campaign, but I have not yet found a reference to back this up. The CHome coverage was pretty comprehensive & I can find nothing on Cameron and grammar schools. Certainly I have found no speech or article for public consumption.

The earliest reference I can find is a speech in Essex in January 2006, which was billed as the announcement of a change in policy. As ever, if there was an earlier announcement, I would be delighted to see evidence of it.

James Hellyer,

Welcome back. I hope you stay awhile.

No Matt Wright what we are proposing are most definitely 'not grammar schools in all but name'.They are City Academies without any form of selection whatsoever.
City Academies are simply a Blairite gimmick, why we are advocating them Lord only knows.
Your post made me quite angry too Benard Wiggins. Please tell me what is right wing about want to increase social mobility through the adoption of Grammar Schools?

I echo Simon Chapmans post, welcome back Mr Hellyer.Where've you been?

Malcolm, no point in responding to you. Anger hardly contributes to informed debate. Perhaps when you have cooled down?.


You have been magnificent in defence of grammar schools, but I must disagree with you about Academies. There are essentially 2 types: turnarounds, where existing failed schools became academies; and start-ups - brand new academies.

It is still early days for a solid evidence base on the brand new ones. However, some of the turnarounds are now beginning to demonstrate real success. Remember, these are turning around some of the worst schools in the country - that does not happen overnight. As I have posted elsewhere, I have visited Greig Academy a number of times for work reasons. It was the first to open in the country, and replaced a school locked in intractable decline. It is now very clearly a school on the way up. Results are improving rapidly, its basketball teams are winning national championships, exclusions, unauthorised absences and staff turnover are all down. Staff turnover is now negligible.

At the risk of sounding like the Editor, there is room for the Conservative Party to back both grammar schools AND academies.

To Matt at 23.09. Matt I agree that they are not aims in themselves but we have to face upto the fact that there are elements in our party who are terrified of change and think that Conservatism is only about preserving things. What was great about Lady Thatcher was that she was not like that and in fact I am old enough to remmeber the criticism of her by some in the party then on the basis that she wanted to change things! Don't get me wrong, I am not in anyway advocating cahnge for the sake of it and for PR led politics. I hate that sort of thing. However it seems to me that at the core of Conservatism is helping more poeple to do better for themselves and raising standards not reducing things to the lowest common denominator in the pursuit of false ideals. What Willetts is proposing is exactly about helping more people to do better and using streaming as part of that process. It therefore hits the right notes for Conservatism realism,


I have read all the comments on this subject and can say that I have been a Conservative for over 50 years and can say to these modernisers that they are so wide of the mark considering their comments. Yes, by all means,critise the Telegraph if that is what you think will bring you success at the ballot box. Can I just say to you,do so at your peril. Look at the readership of this newspaper and you can see that it is read by the those who can influence matters in the Country. Does anyone who is a true Tory ever believe that you can win an election by backing the views expressed by the Guardian. No sensible Tory will ever subscribe to this sort of Liberal minded newspaper or pay any attention to it's views. It seems easy for the elite in the Party to pay homage to the Editors of these sort of publications. Maybe it is that we have too many ex public shoolboys leading this Party at the moment.
I have had the pleasure of retiring recently after 41 years as an elected member and have served this Party well. It really is a tradegy to see how things have changed since this new breed has taken over at CCHQ. Let me say,once and for all that it is impossible to win an election by alienating the core voters and more importantly those who are who are members of the Party. Yes,we can attract the fly by night people who are being asked to vote for us and yes we need them to vote for us. Before anyone tells me to go away as I may be classed as a has been,let me say that it is better to have been as has been than a never will be!! Get this once Proud Party back to it's Strong Conservative principlies and take the battle forward to defeat the enemy.Yes we can win being united but don't ever take our core vote for granted as they may just stay at home on polling day. If a person like myself is getting concerned then I would suggest that someone in CCHQ should be taking heed and switch on before it is too late.

If I can paraphrase Bruce Mackie, your call is to "bring back" the core vote.
Isn't that exactly what has failed us at each of the last three General Elections?
If all our focus is on the small minority who could ever hope to attend grammar schools, how can we hope that a majority will vote for us?

If all our focus is on the small minority who could ever hope to attend grammar schools, how can we hope that a majority will vote for us?

That is so crass as to be risible.

By representing the very few moneyed that pay for public school education the Conservative Party has shown how much it is a party of City interests and extremely well-heeled Southerners living on inherited money or connections...

Results are improving rapidly,

Says who ?

Quis custodient ipsos custodes ?

Like a couple of others on this thread, I gave up reading the Telegraph a long time ago. Heffer et al has put me off, it is a ranting nonsense. It is pitching to the 'Grampa Simpson' conservative auduence, and until the brothers realise they are onto a losing strategy, I will be reading the Times.

Don't worry Oberon.

I'm sure the Telegraph gave up on people like you long ago.

Try The Guardian. You'll be much happier.

It's just possible that Mr W helped Mr C with his drafting!

And it's also possible that the Cameron Mafia's compassion adviser Doogie Smith was not far away.

Bunny rabbits beware!!!

T: I don't like the Guardian, and I don't like corduroy either. Bet you like the Telegraph though!

All this talk of a two tier system is nonsense and presumes that an academic education is better than a practical education. What we need is a realistic education system where people should not be put in the position where they feel they have to pay to send their children to public school in order for them to have a good education. What do I mean by this? Put simply you would maintain the current system of primary education (with less pointless exams and league tables etc) but at 11 you would sit an academic exam (I sat my SATS exam at 11 which determined the sets I went into for maths, English and science when I started my comprehensive secondary school). Those who passed the exam would go to what would have been called Grammar schools and those who failed would go to another form of school that was better tailored to meet their needs.

At the Grammar School people would be given a rigorous and rounded education covering a variety of subjects while at the other schools pupils would learn to a very high standard basic maths and English, science and so forth whilst also learning about more practical subjects such are mechanics, wood work, car maintenance, hair dressing, plumbing etc. Any pupil that showed signs of academic ability would be offered the chance to move over to the other school at the end of each year if they wished.

We need to be realistic, this isn't about saying one school is better than the other and in reality they need not have names such as Grammar or Secondary Modern, you could call them what ever you wanted. What this is about is realising that pupils are different, not everyone is the same and that by realising this you might be able to make peoples lives better.

I went to a comprehensive school with a real mix of people. Many pupils couldn't see why they had to learn certain things when it would be of no use to them in the outside world and many were not being taught some of things they would need for jobs they wanted in the outside world. Instead of pretending that everyone is the same and should be offered the same education, would it not be better to offer people the same mixed education up until a certain age and then allow people a more relevant, specialist education for the rest of their time in education?

For some people a more practical education is better than an academic one and there should be no distinction in terms of one being better or worse.

The idea that as many people as possible should be pushed into university is not good either. Certain subjects taught at degree level these days do not need to be taught in such a way. Plumbing for example does not need to be taught at degree level.

One thing that is for sure when some schools have tried to offer an education similar to that outlined above, attendance levels have risen and behavioural problems have dropped.

would have been called Grammar schools and those who failed would go to another form of school that was better tailored to meet their needs.

In my day some went to grammar school, others went to Technical School, and others to Secondary Modern. The Technical School had lathes and some very good technical teaching....never hear much about those schools nowadays, but certainly more fun than being stuck in feminised schools learning about Diversity and other PC crap

I'm constantly amazed by the number of people who seem to think we have lost three elections because of our "extreme right wing policies" which therefore justifies the abandonment of everything we once believed in.

For once and for all - CRAP. Did we lose in 1997 because John Major was too right wing? Did we lose in 2001 because voters perceived William Hague to be a closet Nazi? Hmmm. Unlikely. Especially since our 'best' result of the three was undoubtedly under the most obviously right wing leader, Michael Howard in 2005.

No, we lost in 1997 (and 2001) not because voters were repulsed by our policies but because we had been in power too long, appeared stale and jaded, riddled with scandal and unable to operate as a united party. All whilst the Labour Party had united under that nice Mr Blair and avoided saying anything that might frighten the horses.

I voted for Cameron and support the need for us to change our tone. And of course we need to review our policies. But many of them still resonate with voters. Don't lets abandon everything we stand for on the false premise that voters loathe our policies. It simply isn't true.

Comments on ConservativeHome about the WebCameron article: 97

Comments on WebCameron about the WebCameron article: 2

Steve makes a good point.

Francis Maude has often used a "killer slide" in his presentations - the one that shows that people liked our policies on specific issues, but were turned off them once they knew that they were OUR policies. They liked our policies but didn't like us, and their dislike of us outweighed their liking of our policies.

That slide has been used to argue for change. And it's very persuasive. But it was the party that needed to change, rather more than the policies.

My hope is that after the next election we won't be faced with an equally persuasive slide that demonstrates that electors liked us as a party but were turned off by our policies. That is a danger.

Well Stephen,I think you should read my post again and take on board exactly what I did say. At no point did I state that we should only bring back the core vote.My emphasis was that we must not alienate the core vote or for that matter the membership of this Party. Without a strong base,we will bever win.I did acknowledge that we had to reach out to encourage people to vote for us. What good would that do if the core vote were to stay at home on polling day.I also stated that it was time to unite and go forward to win. A Party does not do that by upsetting many of it's members on an issue such as raised by David Willetts. It might have been better to have been left unsaid. After all no one was talking about it until it was raised by him no doubt to attempt to grap the headlines from the
Labour Party Leadership contest and the 'coronation' of Gordon Brown. It might have been better to have once again laid into him on the Pensions issue.

Well said Steve.

Simon, I think you are probably right. Some some academies have done well, undoubtedly.Some have not.
I striongly suspect that those who have have performed well have outstanding headmasters who have inspired their staff who then have inspired their pupils to be the best they can be. The same is true of many Comprehensive schools.I know some who are superb who are located in areas of the country where the intake are not what by any stretch of the imagination 'advantaged'.
It is also true that there are still relatively few city academies, they are a new concept so it is early days to draw definite conclusions. But equally it is difficult (impossible?) to draw the conclusion that they are a runaway success either. Grammar schools have a proven track record for thousands and thousands of pubils.Secondary moderns suffered from a poverty of aspiration in 50/60's many did not even have 6thforms, there is no reason to repeat that mistake.
It does seem to me to be the height of folly to abandon any form of academic selection without a very credible alternative. I genuinely can't see that City Academies are that.
I've probably blogged enough about this subject so will end now.

Bruce, I know what you are saying but in fact reading through all the recent posts about Grammar schools, most people are arguing about nothing. Emotions have taken over from reason here and perhaps understandbly as people who went to grammar schools are rightly very supportive of them. Perhaps the PR was not ideal but what Willetts is actually saying is use streaming (selective) methods to help more people and improve education. Sounds deeply Conservative to me. As to the Telegraph, I've read it for donkeys years but I have to say I am going off it. Increasingly it tends to sound like the old piss-head in the corner of the pub who mumbles on about everything being better in the past. I suspect that if the DT doesn't alter it will be in commercial trouble but we're Conservatives and the market decides so interesting times!


but what Willetts is actually saying is use streaming (selective) methods to help more people and improve education.

Which is exactly where Tony Blair came in...it was his 1997 Manifesto pledge. It will never happen .....you can write exactly the same aspirant stuff in 2015 or 2030 because it will be exactly the same mess

The proposals themselves seem sound enough, it's just a shame that their launch has either been a PR shambles or a deliberate attempt to pick a fight in order to illustrate the party's "change agenda".

James Hellyer, I too would like to say how good it is to see you posting on this thread. I hope you're back for a while.

I agree that David Cameron must have deliberately picked this fight, but I suspect his motive is to spoil Gordon Brown's headlines. My feeling is that we're actually coming out of this better than Gordon Brown would like.

Cameron is spot on with his description of the current debate regarding grammar schools. Hysteria is probably too mild to describe the overreaction.

He has described the answer as
'aggressive setting to stretch bright pupils, whole class teaching, strong discipline to name but three – in all schools.'

This is surely something we can all rally round???

In order for someone to pull the ladder away, doesn't the ladder have to be there in the first place?

Most places in the country do not have grammar schools. In the places that do, those grammar schools are devoid of poor kids (2% FSMs as opposed to the 12% FSMs in the locality, and 14% FSMs nationally).

When looking to how to structure secondary education there are basically three choices:
1) Comprehensive - everyone's state-allocated to a local school
2) Grammar/Sec Modern - everyone's sent to a school chosen by the state on the basis of performance in 11+ or a successor exam
3) Vouchers - parents choose the school for their children

Everybody hates the comprehensive system. Willetts and Cameron like vouchers - they think parent choice is what drives up standards in schools and improves children's education. The contributors to ConHome reckon they like state allocation under the Grammar School system, but seemingly have nothing to say about all the other schools, aren't too keen on expanding it beyond where it currently survives, and are determined to cling to their faith that Grammar Schools are educating loads of poor kids despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. How bizarre - ConHome readers are anti-choice, and anti-evidence.

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