Cameron urges end to ‘sterile debate’ on grammars

David Cameron has continued to criticise his own party over its commitment to grammar schools, urging Tories to move on from a “sterile debate” about building a few more grammar schools.

The Conservative leader has denied he will make grammar schools into his “Clause Four moment”, but insisted he will carry the party with him on the issue.

Almost a week since shadow education secretary David Willetts affirmed the Conservatives’ support for City Academies and refusal to build any more grammar schools, Mr Cameron is still facing dissent within his own party.

However, he insisted there would be no U-turn over grammar schools. Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I lead. I don’t follow my party.”

Writing in the Times newspaper he said this had been the week the Conservative party had got serious about education reform.

Refusing to restore the 11 plus did not mark a break from tradition but instead reflected a Conservative believe that rigour, parental choice and competition are the best ways of raising standards.

He pledged to increase the pace and innovation of educational reform in the UK, insisting he was “determined to move on from sterile debates about building a few more grammar schools.”

Policies should focus on increasing the number of good school places, not arguing over how to allocate the few desirable places, he claimed. This will require an opening up of the supply of education, enabled via City Academies.

As his increasingly tough rhetoric has failed to convince Tory rebels, Mr Cameron warned them against “ideological self-indulgence” at a time when 350,000 pupils are failing to get five good GCSEs.

Backbench MPs have warned Mr Cameron he risks losing grassroots support over his rejection of grammar schools.

There are just 164 grammar schools left in England and although Mr Cameron has insisted the Tories would not close these, they would not seek to open anymore.

As the party’s core supporters fail to embrace this stance, Gordon Brown said Mr Cameron’s policies were beginning to “unravel”.