As an Amendment to Commons Amendment No. 136
Lord Tope (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, with incredulity. I do not doubt that she is genuine in her concern for the disruption and distress caused in schools which are undergoing ballots. I speak from personal experience of schools and can say that, coming from the representative of a government who introduced ballots on maintained status and had school after school experiencing considerable division and disruption all because of their ideological drive to force grant-maintained schools on a country which demonstrated in ballot after ballot--and more particularly by refusing to hold ballots--that it did not want such schools, the concern is hard for me to understand. I do not want to use unparliamentary language, but I find some of what has been said remarkable coming from a party which started the ballots.
We opposed the Government's proposal, which is now in the Act, to ballot on grammar schools. We thought that it was inappropriate and that it would be better left to local decision-making. We do not want to rehearse those arguments today, but if the Government are considering amending the ballot regulations to make them a little fairer and more workable, I suppose that we welcome it. However, I should welcome much more their reappraisal of the whole situation.
The Minister spoke eloquently, as always, against selection in education but perhaps I may correct her on one point. She referred to grammar schools versus comprehensive schools. That is wrong; it is grammar and secondary modern schools versus comprehensive schools. If you have grammar schools, by definition you must have secondary modern schools, whatever label or name you choose to give them. That is the proper comparison with comprehensive schools and when one makes it one can see that in the overwhelming majority of cases our comprehensive schools have been most successful.
We will not support the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. However, I must again make clear our party's opposition to the Government's ballot proposals as enshrined in the School Standards and Framework Act.