Parents in the north London borough of Barnet are angry about a local secondary school's plans to become selective.
They say a decision by Hendon School to introduce banding from September 1996 goes against the wishes of the majority of parents and will cause chaos in the area.
The Department for Education and Employment approved grant-maintained Hendon School's application to change its admissions criteria last November. This year, prospective pupils will have to sit a test and 50 places will be allocated to the top 25 per cent, 100 places to the middle 50 per cent and 50 places to the lowest 25 per cent.
Jenny Brown, secretary of Barnet Parents, said the move would mean less choice for most people because only children whose parents could afford to have them tutored would pass the exam. The pressure on junior pupils would increase as schools tried to cram them for the test. And there was no guarantee Hendon would stick to its admission criteria because GM schools did not have the same checks and balances as local education authority schools.
"The DFEE's decision is completely and utterly bizarre. Hendon didn't even want to go selective and only did so because nearby Mill Hill County High was hoping to, but there now appears to be a hitch with their application. Why isn't anybody looking at the whole area? " she said.
Anne Jarvis, education chair in the borough which is Labour-controlled with the support of the Liberal Democrats, is also opposed to the move. She said many heads were worried about other selective schools in the area creaming off the brightest candidates. Also, it was increasingly difficult for parents to get children into their nearby secondary. Almost no Barnet pupils got places at Queen Elizabeth's School, for example, which went selective in August 1994.
" Every school should have a reasonable share of more able pupils and we are trying to find a way of meeting non-selective heads' concerns. Then perhaps Hendon will join us," she said.
Hendon head Robert Lloyd said he had not wanted to introduce selection but as other schools had done or were hoping to do so, it was the only way to avoid becoming a secondary modern.