Backbenchers fail to expand number of selective state schools

13th May 2011 at 01:00
MPs wanted to protect right of academy converts to control admissions

The unofficial leader of the Conservative backbench led a failed charge this week to amend legislation and expand the number of academically selective state schools.

Graham Brady, chairman of the highly influential 1922 Committee, was supported by 38 Conservative and Labour MPs in the Commons in a bid to allow independent schools converting to academy status to keep their selective admissions policy.

Mr Brady is a major parliamentary campaigner for the expansion of grammar schools, and even quit the Conservative frontbench in 2007 due to a row over the party's policy when it came to the schools.

In his amendment, tabled on Wednesday for the Third Reading and Report of the Education Bill, Mr Brady and his supporters called for the Academies Act to be revised to give independent schools opting in to the state sector the ability to continue to select their intake.

In moving his amendment in the House, Mr Brady said it "reflected basic common sense" by extending existing legislation that allowed grammar schools to retain their selective admissions policy when becoming an academy, and added that it would drive social mobility.

"This is a modest clause but it does something important - it removes an anomaly that the Government has created in the Academies Act that allows state grammar schools to become academies without changing their admissions status," the MP for Altrincham and Sale West said.

He added: "No new selective schools would be created by this clause. There would be the same number of selective schools in the country at the moment, but it would mean independent schools would be able to take pupils regardless of parental means."

Labour's shadow education secretary Andy Burnham said the amendment showed the Conservatives' "true instincts" when it came to education.

The move was dismissed by fair admissions campaign group Comprehensive Future, which said the political will of all three main parties was not to extend selection.

Fiona Millar, chair of Comprehensive Future, said the fact that only 38 MPs backed the amendment showed there was very little support for selection in Parliament.

"I think it is very positive, by and large, that the political discussion has obviously moved on, as less than 40 MPs are backing this amendment," Ms Millar said.

"If each of the main political parties does not want to return to selection, the next step is to get rid of it altogether. We and other campaign groups around fairer admissions will continue to make this case."

REFORM

The Education Bill proposes to ...

- Increase teachers' search powers and use of restraint.

- Reform exclusion appeal panels.

- Place reporting restrictions on allegations facing teachers.

- Remove 24-hour notice requirement for detentions.

- Abolish GTC, QCDA, YPLA and TDA.

- Strip down Ofsted inspection framework.

- Create 16-19 and PRU academies.

- Raise the school participation age to 18.

- Allow Ofqual to compare UK with international assessments.

- Require schools to participate in Pisa.

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