Shadow Chancellor George Osborne risked stoking the bitter education row further
today by indicating that a Tory government would actively prevent new grammar
schools being opened. Mr Osborne insisted that countries in the "mainstream" of thinking on education - such as America - would not allow selective schools to appear. Pressed by a Conservative activist from Buckinghamshire on whether the party would permit them to open new grammars which had local support, Mr Osborne said: "We don't believe in schools choosing pupils. We believe in pupils choosing schools. "That is where the mainstream of the education debate is all around the world. You go to the United States, you go to other countries in Europe, that's what they are talking about. They wouldn't allow schools to emerge and take funding that had academic selection as a criterion for entry. That is the mainstream education debate in the rest of the world and we're suggesting that Britain and the Conservative party joins that mainstream debate. His comments were immediately attacked by former shadow Europe minister Graham Brady, who resigned yesterday in protest at the policy. Mr Brady - the first front-bencher to quit under David Cameron's leadership - said the Conservative position of keeping the 164 existing grammar schools but ruling out creating any more was "illogical". "This question highlights the illogicality of supporting popular selective systems but preventing them from expanding when parents want them to," the MP for Altrincham and West Sale said. "If population is growing in a selective Local Education Authority area, whether it's Buckinghamshire or Trafford, surely new grammar schools should be available.
Unless they have completely changed their secondary schooling system Germany operates an entirely academically based selection procedure to decide which pupils should go to a Gymnasium (Grammar School), Realschule or Hauptschule.
What on earth was George Osborne thinking of by giving this answer? I thought Conservatives believed in the freedom of parents to start new schools. We criticise Labour for having a £2 million barrier to entry, and yet we are seriously suggesting that we should prevent people opening schools in a format which has a fantastic record of academic excellence and promoting social mobility.