A LEADING Worcestershire Conservative has spoken of his opposition to grammar schools - warning Theresa May that “selection is not the answer”.

Councillor Marc Bayliss, a member of Worcestershire County Council’s Tory leadership, has urged the Prime Minister to abandon any plans to turn back the clock by lifting the ban on grammars.

The politician, who is the cabinet member looking after schools at County Hall, says the old selective system “failed” a generation of young people.

Weekend newspaper reports suggested the PM is planning to give the green light to a wave of grammars across Britain, with an historic announcement expected at the Conservative Party conference in October.

Such a move would be deeply divisive, but Mrs May went to a grammar school herself and is known to be a keen supporter of them.

Councillor Bayliss, the cabinet member for children and families, said Worcestershire’s schools - of which 90 percent are rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted - need to be left well alone.

“I see no reason why we should be returning to grammar schools in Worcestershire,” he said today.

“I share the opinion of David Cameron, when he said he didn’t want children divided up into ‘sheep’ and ‘goats’ aged 11.

“I don’t want to return to a system which failed a whole generation of people.

“Young people’s talents and abilities grow across a whole range of ages, and the comprehensive school system allows them to develop.

“In Worcestershire 90 per cent of our schools are good or outstanding, the best they have ever been so I don’t think there’s a case for any wholesale reorganisation of the system.”

Worcester MP Robin Walker has also admitted to being sceptical about it, but says he wants to wait and see the details of the policy.

“We’re very fortunate in Worcester to have great schools that stretch people of all abilities,” he said.

“So a return to grammar schools is not something I’ll be banging the drum for in Worcestershire.

“But I don’t want to nail my colours to the mast, we’ll have to wait and see what the detail of the policy is.

“The problem with the old system was, children who didn’t get in felt that they were marked down.

“I’m inclined to say I don’t think we need to rearrange the system to have them in areas which don’t already have them, but I need to see what the policy is because on one hand I’m in favour of meritocracy because I believe that can be delivered through setting and streaming."

David Cameron annoyed some Conservative backbenchers by resisting the creation of new grammar schools when he was Prime Minister, focusing his education policy on academies and free schools which do not select on ability at the age of 11.

Mrs May is thought to be a backer of new selective schools, having supported a grammar school’s proposal to open a new annexe in her Maidenhead constituency.

She is understood to see the reintroduction of grammars - banned by Tony Blair in 1998 - as a key part of her social cohesion agenda.

A Downing Street spokesman said any change in policy would be announced “in due course”.

Many voters are also believed to want new grammar schools, with more than twice as many supporting an end to the ban than keeping it according to a poll.

Around seven in 10 Britons want to see the ban lifted and eight in 10 believe grammar schools can boost social mobility when undecided voters are removed, according to the survey conducted last week.

An ORB poll of 2,000 voters found 49 per cent agreed with scrapping the new grammar schools ban and 23 per cent disagreed.

When undecided were discounted, 68 per cent wanted to see the ban gone. 

Johnny Heald from the ORB said: “The poll clearly indicates there is majority support for a reversal of the ban on creating new grammar school.”

There are now just 163 grammars left in England out of around 3,000 state secondaries.

* What do you think - are selective grammar schools the way foward? Email te@worcesternews.co.uk or ring 01905 742248.