I have just recieved this e-mail from David Cameron trying to put thr Grammar School issue to bed. You might see this as desperate, you might see it as bold ... but I think what the general tone says about Cameron is what counts. I like what he has to say and I like how he says it. Bravo.
Last week, the newspapers were convulsed by a debate about something that the Conservative Party did not do when it was last in office; will not do when it is next in office, and even if it did do it - would almost certainly see it reversed. That's why I described the debate about bringing back grammar schools as pointless.
National selection was abolished because it was deeply unpopular with parents, who didn't want their children to be divided into successes and failures at the age of eleven. That's why in eighteen years of Conservative Government, neither Margaret Thatcher nor John Major created grammar schools. That's why Conservative MPs and candidates in areas without grammar schools do not campaign for them to be brought back.
If they did, parents would be left asking what happens to the large majority of children who don't make the grade - and those parents would be right. Far from being some winning slogan, a pledge to build more grammar schools would be an electoral albatross. That's why Labour want to hang it round our neck. They know it keeps us from joining and leading the real debate over their failure on standards, discipline and opportunity for all.
There is a kind of hopelessness about the demand to 'bring back' grammars, an assumption that this country will only ever be able to offer a decent education to a select few. I want the Conservative Party to rise above that attitude. It cannot be the limit of our ambition for some children to get a decent education; any party aspiring to government must aim to ensure a decent education for every single child. We will never be taken seriously by parents - never convince them that we're on their side and share their aspirations for their children - if we splash around in the shallow end of the educational debate, clinging on to outdated mantras that bear no relation to the reality of life today.
Parents want us to do something about the shocking standards in many of our three thousand secondary schools, not tie ourselves in knots over a grammar schools policy. This is a key test for our Party. Does it want to be a serious force for government and change, or does it want to be a right-wing debating society muttering about what might have been?
A serious party must understand the widespread crisis in education today and respond with a scale of ambition that is appropriate to the challenge. Behind the government's propaganda, it is clear that on literacy, numeracy, discipline, behaviour, we're falling way short of what we need. The challenge for our Party is to tackle educational under-achievement across the board.
When it comes to encouraging excellence, of course it's true that grammar schools can provide a ladder of opportunity for some - but far too few. We need to be the party of aspiration and opportunity for all. With Gordon Brown as our opponent, we can claim that vital territory. He still believes in a know-your-place society where state largesse, not personal responsibility, determine your future. That's not the Conservative approach, and that's why we're doing the serious thinking about how we produce an education reform plan that actually works.
That means no more confusion of ends and means. Every true Conservative believes in aspiration and opportunity for all. But that belief has been obscured by an outdated attachment to a few schools which deliver aspiration and opportunity to some.
I couldn't have put it better myself!