Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Quiet! Cameron Quells Tory Grammar Revolt

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Quiet! Cameron Quells Tory Grammar Revolt

Article excerpt

DAVID CAMERON today orderedMPs rebelling against Tory party policy on grammar schools to shut up.

The Tory leader warned that he would not allow the partys education policy to be dominated by the row and said: A pointless debate about creating a handful of extra grammar schools is not going to get us anywhere and I wont have it.The furore was caused by a speech in which shadow education secretary David Willetts firmly ruled out building any new grammar schools, although no existing grammar schools would be closed, and backed Tony Blairs flagship city academies as key to helping children from poorer backgrounds In the speech to the Confederation of British Industry he said that Tories had to break free from the belief that academic selection is any longer the way to transform the life chances of bright poor kids.

The extent of the revolt was brought home when Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, standing in for Tony Blair at Prime Ministers Questions, taunted traditionalist Tory MPs in the Commons by urging them to put up their handsif they supported the new Conservative education policy. Significantly few did so.

Grammar school educated Tory MP Roger Gale branded the policy bizarre and extremely foolish.

Mr Gale, MP for North Thanet, said: The concept that only middle-class parents are able to play the system to get their children into grammar schools is bizarre.

There are still parents from all walks of life who regard the education of their children as of paramount importance and who are prepared to forego luxuries to pay for extra-curricular activities for their children. Is that now a crime?

My party is being extremely foolish if it is going to nail its colours to the city academy mast before we find out whether they will work or not.A shadow minister who wished not to be named accused Mr Willetts of blundering with his speech on city academies.

He said: The purpose of the speech was to flag up the partys strong support for academies, not to attack grammar schools.Mr Cameron, weathering this storm, vowed to put rocket boostersunder the city academy programme and stressed: The best way to help social mobility is to make sure that the 24,000 schools that we do have have good standards of discipline and behaviour and then good standards of teaching and learning. …

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