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11-plus opponents accused of disrupting schools

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GRAMMAR school supporters have accused anti-11-plus campaigners of disrupting the work of hundreds of schools in Kent and Medway. The accusation follows a move by the campaign group STEP – Stop The Eleven Plus – to attempt to trigger another petition on the future of the county’s grammars.

Some 700 schools in Kent and Medway have this week received letters from the Electoral Ballot Reform Society – ERBS - requesting them to compile lists of parents who would be eligible to vote in any ballot. ERBS is the organisation responsible for overseeing any such vote.

The letters to primary and secondary schools asking for the information are the first stage in the ballot process. It follows a formal request from campaigners to be told how many parental signatures they will need to force a vote on grammars.

The regulations require campaigners to gather the signatures of at least 20 per cent of eligible parents. Although schools will be paid for compiling these lists and most will already have the information, the pro-grammar group Support Kent Schools has denounced it as a futile exercise as STEP is unlikely to push for a ballot.

SKS chairman Eric Hammond has written to the Education Secretary Estelle Morris calling for a change in the rules to make it more difficult to trigger a vote. In a statement, SKS said: “This is nothing more than a futile exercise, an irritating distraction and another demand on the public purse. Not content with their contribution to the disruption of the secondary admission arrangements in Kent, anti-selective campaigners are now embarking on a cynical political gesture.”

The charge was dismissed by STEP. It agreed the regulations ought to change – but only so calling for a vote would be easier.

Chairwoman Becky Matthews said: “Eric Hammond is mischief-making. SKS claims to support choice but is trying to stifle it. We are campaigning for changes that give parents the chance to choose but the regulations purporting to give parents a democratic right to determine the future of the 11-plus in Kent do no such thing.”

STEP was forced to abandon its efforts to trigger a petition in 1999 when it fell far short of the 47,000 signatures it was then told was needed to trigger a vote.

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