Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tory Schools Revolution Is a Vote for Grammars; CONSERVATIVES' ALLOCATION SYSTEM WOULD MEAN AN END TO CATCHMENT AREAS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tory Schools Revolution Is a Vote for Grammars; CONSERVATIVES' ALLOCATION SYSTEM WOULD MEAN AN END TO CATCHMENT AREAS

Article excerpt

Byline: TIM MILES

GRAMMAR schools would face a comeback under controversial plans to scrap catchment areas. Tories have unveiled their new policy on the allocation of school places which would effectively abolish catchment areas.

In their place, they pledged, they would massively expand the numbers of pupils admitted to schools because of their academic ability, or aptitude in other areas such as sport or the arts. But leading educationists said the plan heralded a return to a two-tier system where good schools would succeed at the expense of the worst.

Former chief schools inspector Mike Tomlinson - now head of the charity running schools in Hackney - said opening up schools to all parents, regardless of where they lived, would not create real choice, because none would choose to send their children to "sink" schools.

"The fundamental problem is how to ensure that all children get a good education, regardless which school they go to, and we are not moving towards that as quickly as we ought," he said.

Even supporters of selection acknowledged that more grammar schools would only create genuine choice for parents if schools for children with different, non-academic, aptitudes were equally good.

Dr Alan Smithers, Professor of Education at Liverpool University, said: "Abolishing proximity as a means of allocating places would mean inevitably that more schools would select by academic ability.

"But both political parties have to face up to what that means for children who don't get into them, and if the choice is another substandard school that is no choice at all."

Shadow education secretary Tim Yeo chose a speech to the National Union of Teachers' conference at the weekend to unveil a radical extension of his party's plans to deregulate education.

The Tories would tear up the rules on surplus school places, he confirmed, so that new schools could be created even where existing ones were half empty. And parents would effectively be given vouchers covering the cost of state education, to spend at whichever school they liked.

In addition, Mr Yeo promised to end "selection by postcode", which enabled rich parents to win places for their children at the best state schools simply by buying houses in their catchment area. …

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