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Grammar Schools

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Skills – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 18th March 2004.

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Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor Conservative, Rochford and Southend East 11:30 am, 18th March 2004

What percentage of secondary school children in England attend grammar schools; and what the percentage was (a) 10 and (b) 20 years ago.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills

Currently, 4.6 per cent.—150,750—of secondary school children in England attend grammar schools. In 1993, the figure was 3.8 per cent.—111,846; and in 1983, it was 3.1 per cent.—117,147. However, before the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, there was no legal definition of a grammar school. Section 104 of the Act defines a grammar school as one that selects all, or substantially all, of its pupils by reference to academic ability.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor Conservative, Rochford and Southend East

Is the Secretary of State aware that the very positive and helpful attitude to grammar schools now being taken by the Government is greatly appreciated, especially in Southend-on-Sea where we have four such schools? Following that positive move, will the right hon. Gentleman consider establishing grammar schools in some of our major cities, where despite all the efforts of the Government and local councils there is a system of virtual class segregation and children of ability from poor homes do not have a chance to break through? Will he follow up the good policy by extending it to major cities?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills

The short answer is no. The city academy programme, which was referred to earlier, is precisely the kind of investment of high-quality schools in the poorest communities in the country that is needed to allow every child to fulfil their own aspirations, and it is not just for some children who have been sieved off in a particular way.

As an aside, I may say that the kind of portakabin passport that the Opposition Front-Bench policy is all about will do nothing to assist standards in areas such as that represented by the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Phyllis Starkey Phyllis Starkey Labour, Milton Keynes South West

Grammar schools in Buckinghamshire receive generous funding by contrast with the underfunding of certain other secondary schools in the county, especially those with a high proportion of ethnic minority pupils, which has been highlighted by the "missingbucks" campaign. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the current Ofsted inspection of the Buckinghamshire local education authority is aware of the information highlighted by the campaign and considers both the poor level of attainment by ethnic minorities in those schools and what the LEA should be doing to improve standards in them?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills

I agree with my hon. Friend and commend her work on the "missingbucks" campaign. She has previously raised the different types of funding for different schools in Buckinghamshire in the House, and we need to put the matter right in the way that she suggests. The pupil funding guarantees in the settlements for this year and next year to which my hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards referred a moment ago will go some way to protecting every school, but my hon. Friend Dr. Starkey is right to focus on getting Buckinghamshire county council to allocate proper resources to schools that face the greatest challenges.