Grammar school reform under review

The government wants to review the system for abolishing grammar schools to make it easier for parents to get rid of selection locally.

The current arrangements, brought in by Labour in 1999, enable affected parents to scrap selection in local grammar schools but only after a complex ballot process.

A minimum of ten parents can trigger a petition but this must be backed by 20 per cent of affected parents before a full ballot can go ahead.

Only one such ballot has taken place and parents in Ripton, North Yorkshire eventually voted to keep the local selective grammar school.

A Commons’ select committee concluded two years ago that the ballots are so difficult to enact, they amounted to a waste of public money.

Schools minister Jim Knight confirmed the Schools Department is set to review the system for abolishing the grammar schools.

It is thought changes could include lowering the threshold for support before a vote is triggered and providing campaigns with a list of parents for canvassing support.

Mr Knight said: “We oppose new grammar schools and any new selection – a view backed by all parties’ frontbenches.

“There is no question of government making any decisions centrally over the future of grammar schools. We are firmly committed to giving parents the right to vote to abolish selection at existing grammar schools. However, it is absolutely right that we keep the parental ballot arrangements under review.”

The government may also make it easier for grammar schools to become academies, allowing schools to retain an element of selection and helping the government meet its target for 400 new academies.

The review will also force a debate on the remaining 164 grammar schools, which risks reigniting the internal debate in the Conservative party.

David Cameron was forced to square up to the grassroots in June after his former education spokesman David Willetts said the Conservative party would not support the building of any new grammar schools.