HC Deb 04 December 2003 vol 415 cc632-3
3. Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con)

What recent estimate he has made of the cost of a grammar school ballot. [141758]

The Minister for School Standards (Mr. David Miliband)

The cost of a ballot will depend on the particular circumstances in the area in which it takes place.

Mr. Djanogly

At a time when the Government are supposedly supporting diversity in the types of school on offer and in the specialisations that schools can provide, why are they still fixated on attacking grammar schools and wasting time and money through their failing ballot system?

Mr. Miliband

It is Conservative Front and Back Benchers who are fixated on the 4.5 per cent. of schools in the country that are grammar schools. We are fixated on raising standards in all schools.

Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab)

When the Minister is considering ballots for grammar schools, will he look again at the experience of Milton Keynes in the 1990s, when the Tory-controlled Buckinghamshire county council forced us to go through three successive ballots to try to persuade people to vote for grammar schools, which I am happy to say they did not? Does not that demonstrate the Tory party's continuing obsession with trying to concentrate resources on a small number of children instead of using them across the piece to bring up educational achievement, particularly for low achievers?

Mr. Miliband

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The Government are committed to ensuring that there is no extension of the 11-plus. Final decisions on school organisation, including grammar schools, are a matter for local people.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con)

Could we have ballots for new grammar schools?

Mr. Miliband

The hon. Gentleman was here in 1998 when the House debated the School Standards and Framework Bill, which specifically excluded debate on new grammar schools. [Interruption.] I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon: I am told that he was not here. But some of my hon. Friends were, and the House made it absolutely clear that we want no extension of selection at age 11. If the hon. Gentleman's party wants to make that the battleground for the next general election, it is very welcome to do so.