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County's 11-plus system under scrutiny

KENT'S 11-plus system is likely to come under the spotlight as part of an official investigation by backbench MPs into selective schooling. The Kent Messenger Group understands that several MPs on the influential Education and Skills select committee are to press for an independent inquiry into selective admissions and its impact on standards.

The 11-strong cross-party House of Commons committee will be meeting later this month to discuss what issues it wishes to consider in its programme of work for the first half of next year.

Some backbench MPs are determined to push for an inquiry because they believe it could offer a way to highlight what they regard as the growing evidence that selection does not help push up standards.

Any inquiry would be likely to consider research from various academic sources and could also take evidence from headteachers and education officials.

With 33 grammar schools - the highest number anywhere in the country - it is almost certain the 11-plus system in Kent and Medway would come under scrutiny.

MP David Chaytor, a member of the committee who chaired a fringe meeting organised by the campaign group CASE at Labour's party conference, said: "I am sure this is one of the issues the select committee will want to consider as part of its programme of work."

Martin Frey, of the Kent group STEP - Stop The Eleven Plus - said: "We would welcome any objective and independent examination about the effects of selection. We are appalled that almost nothing is known about the impact of selection in this country."

At the same time, MPs are also gearing up to press for changes to the Government's ballot regulations which allow parents to call for votes on the future of grammar schools.

Some MPs are expected to use the publication of the Government's Education Bill in November to table amendments to the rules.

The complexity of the regulations was cited by anti-selection campaigners in the county as one reason why they abandoned their petition for a ballot.

Speaking at the same fringe meeting, Glenys Kinnock, wife of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, said the law on ballots was unworkable.

"The whole thing is completely mad and incapable of dealing with the problems we have in the system."

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