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Birmingham Tories say ‘we’d be delighted’ to open new grammar schools

Birmingham Tories say ‘we’d be delighted’ to open new grammar schools

🕔09.Aug 2016

Birmingham Conservatives have launched a ‘vote Tory to get more grammar schools’ campaign.

Conservative opposition leader Robert Alden said he would “be delighted” to create additional grammar school places and open new grammars if the Tories are running the city council after the 2018 elections.

He was speaking after Theresa May hinted that she wanted to change the law to permit councils to open grammar schools if they wish. Local authorities have been banned from doing so since 1997.

In laying down battle lines for 2018, when all of the council seats will be contested, Cllr Alden has seized on one of the most contentious issues in English education policy.

Grammar Schools were phased out from the mid-1970s by Labour education secretaries Tony Crosland and Shirley Williams, and have never been brought back even by Conservative governments.

A few remain in largely Conservative-voting areas in the Home Counties, while Birmingham has some of the best independent grammar schools in the country run by the King Edward V1 Foundation.

Cllr Alden’s stance will be greeted with outright hostility by Birmingham council’s ruling Labour group which opposes selection at 11 and believes grammar schools to be socially divisive.

Labour also doubts whether the prime minister will really move to re-introduce grammar schools since such a move would be opposed by a number of Tory MPs and by many of the party’s local councillors across the country.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner accused Mrs May of “harking back to a mythical ‘golden age’” and added that “selection belongs in the dustbin of history and has no place in modern society.”

Cllr Alden said he welcomed Mrs May’s stance and claimed that grammar schools “have shown time and time again to be excellent tools for social mobility, offering children the chance to the best education, giving them the chance to do better than their parents”.

He added:

Here in Birmingham they are consistently some of the most popular and successful schools. We would therefore welcome the expansion of grammar schools in the city while also ensuring a wide range of choice, such as academies and faith schools remain available to children and parents.

We are very clear if we are running Birmingham city council after the all-out elections in 2018 we will be creating additional grammar school places as currently allowed. If the Government has changed the law then we will be delighted to be one of the first councils in the country to open up additional grammar schools as well.

There will be a clear choice in Birmingham in 2018 if you want more grammar schools only a Conservative led council will be able to deliver them. Some of the brightest children, from deprived communities, in our city are let down because they do not have the opportunities to succeed.

A Conservative council will deliver a city of aspiration and opportunities for all children to get the chance to reach their full potential.

In a world when the case for devolution is so clear, the decision on whether new grammar schools can be created should not be left to the decision of a Labour Government to unilaterally ban them last century, but rather opened up to allow local councils and voters to decide if they want more grammar schools in their area.

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