Letter: Don't Let Blunkett Make Us Silly City

The Birmingham Post (England), September 9, 1999 | Go to article overview

Letter: Don't Let Blunkett Make Us Silly City


Sir, - Yes, Ros Dodd (Post, Sept 1) is right to endorse the views of Prince Edward. We British are jealous of success, at least in education!

If proof positive were required, one has only to witness the genocidal savagery of Governmental policy towards the 164 surviving grammar schools and their good examination results.

Here in Birmingham, (motto "forward"!) the Labour member for Sheffield/Brightside, Education Secretary David Blunkett is trying his best to drag down the deserved reputation of the "jewels in our crown", the "magnificent 7" schools of Prince Edward's predecessor, His Majesty King Edward VI.

We don't want his unrepresentative ballot to succeed. If it does we shall be the laughing stock of Europe and the world - the "Silly City" instead of the "Second City".

Furthermore, Blunkett's rabbiting on about "no selection" is a relic of old Labour dogma and flies in the face of the hypocritical leaders of the Labour Government who openly put progeny before party by sending their own children to independent and public schools.

Yet they have their "eyes wide shut" to the double selection procedures followed by these schools, ie selection by academic ability and by financial ability to pay fees.

Finally, a multi-coloured, multi-faith democracy such as ours, which can include Her Majesty's Government and Her Majesty's Opposition should surely be able to tolerate some educational varieties - including both the overwhelming 95 per cent of comprehensives, many of which did well in this year's exams, and the minority grouping of His Majesty King Edward VI Grammar Schools in the Midlands and elsewhere.

PETER COLEMAN

(Old Edwardian)

Birmingham.

Parents have power

to choose ballot

Sir, - Your editorial suggestion (Post, Aug 31) that I have announced Birmingham "to be one of four areas to hold a ballot on grammar schools" is simply untrue.

It is not for me to determine whether grammar school ballots take place, it is for parents. Twenty per cent must sign a petition declaring that they want one to take place before any ballot occurs.

The legislation which we inherited gave the power to local education authorities to propose the end of the 11-plus in grammar schools. We have given that power to parents - it is they who make the decisions.

The ballots are scrupulous and fair, contrary to Conservative spokesman John Bercow's absurd claims.

They will be independently organised by Electoral Reform Ballot Services and the Government plays no role in that process.

There are strict controls against fraud and a high petition threshold so that ballots only take place where there is a real parental wish for one.

Your editorial also makes the claim that we have failed to deliver on education in secondary schools. In fact we are starting the Excellence in Cities programme in Birmingham this month which will guarantee all children - regardless of whether they attend a selective or non-selective school - much better opportunities to fulfil their potential.

We have already doubled the number of specialist schools and will have 1,000 beacon schools by 2002. In primary schools, we have already cut class sizes for 300,000 children and restored tried and tested teaching methods through the daily literacy and numeracy lessons.

ESTELLE MORRIS

Minister of State,

Department for Education and Employment.

Case of

'not guilty'

Sir, - Christine M Gregory states, with regard to Jo Ind's article on falling grammatical standards, that it is very ungrammatical to say "it is possible for a youngster who does write in sentences to gain an A grade in their English A-levels."

I would question whether the use of the plural to refer to the singular is, in this instance, ungrammatical.

I quote from Sociolinguistics by Peter Trudgill, published in 1974:

"In English, as in several other languages, one of the normal ways of pronominalising nouns like 'person' for which sex is not specified, is by the pronoun 'he', not 'she'. …

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