Croydon’s Labour opposition has responded to the Conservative-run council’s proposal to establish a grammar school, claiming that parents in Woodside and South Norwood will be paying for the education of children from neighbouring boroughs.
“All children should have access to a local school that provides an excellent education and that is what we want for children of South Norwood and Woodside,” said Kathy Bee, a councillor for South Norwood and the Labour group’s shadow spokeswoman on schools.
“Croydon residents should not be paying to create school places for children from miles away when we face a shortage of places here in just a few years’ time.”
As reported by Inside Croydon this morning, Tim Pollard, the deputy leader of Croydon’s ruling Tories, is prepared to consider making the CALAT site in South Norwood available to be the home for a four-form entry “annexe” for a free school or even a grammar linked to a selective school in neighbouring Bromley or Sutton.
At present, an estimated 2,500 Croydon youngsters make the daily commute out of the borough in order to attend grammar schools run by next-door boroughs. Grammar schools in Sutton regularly attract 12 applicants for every available place, while out-performing Croydon’s fee-paying private schools in the GCSE and A level league tables.
In 2010, a bid by Sutton Council to restrict entry to its grammar schools solely to children from within their borough was rejected by the schools adjudicator.
Schools in Croydon ended selection through the 11-plus in the 1970s, under orders from the education secretary, Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher – herself a grammar school girl – closed more grammar schools than any other education minister in British history.
And now, the Conservative party’s national policy does not permit for the establishment of new selective schools – which makes Pollard’s move for Croydon all the more controversial.
It will not come as any surprise that Pollard’s plan will get no support from Croydon’s opposition Labour group. “The Tory Council will make no commitment to reserving any places for local children,” a Croydon Labour party statement said.
Labour claim that local youngsters will lose out if they apply for the new Croydon grammar, beaten at the entry exams by “hot-housed” children from Bromley, Lewisham, Lambeth and Southwark. With 30 per cent of children in Woodside and South Norwood on free school meals, their parents are unlikely to be able to afford private tuition.
“However bright they are, these children are unlikely to get in if their families cannot afford extra tuition to prepare for the exams,” the Labour statement said.
With the new school supposed to be to meet demand from an increasing secondary school age population in the north of the borough, Labour argue that by creating a grammar that attracts pupils from elsewhere will defeat the object of the exercise.
“A Croydon school should be for children in Croydon,” said Tony Newman, the leader of Croydon’s Labour group and a councillor for Woodside.
“This elitism will not address the school shortage, but exacerbate the problem.”
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