GRAMMAR schools should be in every town, if parents want them, said Conservative leader William Hague this week, echoing a promise made by his predecessor John Major.
Mr Hague, who has launched an Excellence in Education taskforce to help campaigners fight the abolition of grammar school status, said: "We are in favour of local decision-making."
He was visiting A-level students at the partially-selective Graveney School in Tooting, south London. He said the school, a technology college with 60 per cent of pupils from an ethnic- minority background and 25 per cent selection, was an excellent example of how selection works.
"This school had taken the opportunity to be different from other schools. It's partially selective. Schools should be given the right to do that if it's what teachers, governors and local people want."
Decisions on partial selection are being taken by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, set up by the Government as part of a new code on admissions. The first decisions, taken last month in response to complaints from parents, reduced partial selection at schools in the London borough of Wandsworth, from as much as 50 per cent to 25 per cent.
Ministers have also allowed parents to decide on the future of the remaining 164 grammar schools. Campaigners have begun drawing up petitions which could spark ballots on future admissions arrangements.
Edward Wallace, 18, who achieved five As at A-level at Graveney, asked Mr Hague why he had chosen to speak only to high achievers.
Mr Hague insisted: "Sometimes I meet the achievers. The last school I was in before the holidays was for autistic children."