A claim that it would cost Kent CC£150m to convert its selective secondary schools to a comprehensive system was questioned by education minister Baroness Blackstone in the lords yesterday.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden said the government hoped its 'carefully restricted' ballots would result in the abolition of selective secondary education. He asked if the minister was aware that Kent education authority officials had estimated the cost of conversion in the county at£150m.
He added: 'Does the minister consider that that would be best value for money? If that is the result of the ballots, does she undertake that the government will pay that sum? If not, what advice does she
Baroness Blackstone replied: 'The government are aware that Kent local education authority has done some calculations about what wholesale reorganisation might mean in Kent. However, the government
do not accept that a move from selective to non-selective admission policies necessarily involves wholesale reorganisation.
'A great deal of experience of grammar schools becoming comprehensive schools has been gained in the past which has not always involved wholesale reorganisation, particularly in parts of the
country...where there is already a substantial number of comprehensive schools'.
To Lord Pilkington, who asked whether the government intended to extend parental ballots to other education issues, the minister said it was committed to increasing parental participation. Ballots were
only one way of involving parents and were appropriate to particular circumstances, such as grammar school status and the new categories for grant-maintained schools.
She added: 'We are taking a wide range of other measures to increase parental participation. These include having more parents on school governing bodies, parent governor representatives on local
authority committees dealing with education, home-school agreements and parental involvement in our literacy and numeracy strategies'.