Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OPINION -

LABOUR in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion giv­ing par­ents the right to vote on whether to abol­ish gram­mar schools in 1998. Since then, just one bal­lot has taken place, in Ripon, where par­ents voted to re­tain the town’s gram­mar school. Cam­paign­ers in Kent tried to trig­ger a bal­lot in 2000 but were forced to aban­don their ef­forts af­ter se­cur­ing just 7,000 of the 46,000 sig­na­tures needed to force a vote. They com­plained the rules pre­sented them with “too many un­fair and bu­reau­cratic hur­dles”. In sub­se­quent years, Kent cam­paign­ers ex­ploited a loophole al­low­ing them to kick-start the process across the coun­try by get­ting just ten peo­ple to sign a pe­ti­tion ask­ing for de­tails of the bal­lot thresh­old for each se­lec­tive ed­u­ca­tion author­ity and in­di­vid­ual gram­mar school. Then in 2004, a cross­party com­mit­tee of MPs de­clared that the rules were flawed, should be sus­pended and de­manded a re­view. A damn­ing re­port con­cluded: “The pe­ti­tion and bal­lot­ing ar­range­ments are a ges­ture in the di­rec­tion of lo­cal democ­racy but waste the time and re­sources of all con­cerned.”

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