Grammars re­port will stay se­cret

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OPINION - by Paul Francis

THE Gov­ern­ment is re­fus­ing to re­lease a re­port which could af­fect the fu­ture of gram­mar schools.

The in­de­pen­dent re­port ex­am­ines if rules should be changed to make it eas­ier for par­ents to vote on whether to abol­ish gram­mar schools in Kent.

It was com­mis­sioned and com­pleted more than a year ago.

But the Ken­tish Ex­press can re­veal its find­ings have yet to be shared with ei­ther Min­is­ters or with the MPs who asked for it.

Now the De­part­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion and Skills has re­jected a re­quest made by the Ken­tish Ex­press un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act to pub­lish the full re­port, say­ing that to do so would not be in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

The re­port was com­mis­sioned in 2005 by the for­mer Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Charles Clarke, af­ter MPs on the cross-party ed­u­ca­tion se­lect com­mit­tee said the reg­u­la­tions on bal­lots should be scrapped.

To date, £1.7mil­lion of pub­lic money has been wasted pre­par­ing for votes that have never hap­pened be­cause a loophole, ex­ploited by the Kent anti-se­lec­tion cam­paign group STEP (Stop The Eleven Plus), al­lows the bal­lot process for all the coun­try’s 164 re­main­ing grammars to be trig­gered by just 10 peo­ple.

The money has been spent on grants to schools who are paid for com­pil­ing lists of par­ents who would, in the­ory, be el­i­gi­ble to vote if a bal­lot was ever held. Other costs have gone on ad­min­is­tra­tion and pay­ments to the Elec­toral Re­form Bal­lot So­ci­ety.

The Gov­ern­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion was sup­posed to con­sider if there were any al­ter­na­tives to parental bal­lots.

The De­part­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion and Skills (DfES) con­firmed the re­port had ex­am­ined whether the bal­lot reg­u­la­tions were work­ing as in­tended. It also dis­closed the re­port had con­cluded “it would be dif­fi­cult to find an al­ter­na­tive” to the ex­ist­ing ar­range­ments.

More con­tro­ver­sially, it ap­par­ently re­jected com­plaints from anti-se­lec­tion cam­paign­ers that the rules, re­quir­ing 20 per cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers to sign a pe­ti­tion de­mand­ing a bal­lot, made it vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble for them to suc­cess­fully stage a vote.

In a state­ment, the DfES said the re­port had con­cluded that it was “not al­ter­na­tive fair sys­tem of de­cid­ing el­i­gi­bil­ity to vote could be de­vised.”

It re­jected our re­quest for a copy of the full re­port, ar­gu­ing that it was part of “an on­go­ing process of pol­icy dis­cus­sion” de­spite the fact Min­is­ters have yet to be pre­sented with its con­clu­sions.

Martin Frey of STEP

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