Only 4% of services are subject to direct competition! Bus patronage fell by 18% in the decade after deregulation and continues to decline in the majority of England (outside London). In the last ten years there has been a 9% cut in commercially run services. There is a vicious circle of fare rises, cuts in services, falling passenger numbers and rising costs (i.e. falling profits) leading to more fare rises and cuts in services. There will be a short-term increase in bus usage in the next few years due to the introduction of free fares for the elderly and disabled but the 'inexorable decline' is expected to continue after 2010-11. This is despite public subsidies accounting for half the bus industry's annual turnover! By next year, public subsidies, from central and local government, will have increased by 150% under New Labour - from £1 billion to £2.5 billion. This is through the 80% rebate on bus operators' fuel duty, supported services, concessionary fares and capital spending on infrastructure such as interchanges, shelters and bus corridors. Deregulation has been a bonanza for the private sector.

The Big Five have carved up the industry, slashed jobs and wages and massively increased their profits. FirstBus UK made £110 million profit last year, returning £23 million straight back to the fat-cat shareholders and promising a 10% annual increase in dividends. And this is being funded by us - through our bus fares and taxes. The government is determined that this rip-off will continue. They are only proposing to tinker with their own Transport Act 2000 by supposedly making it easier for Passenger Transport Authorities to apply for 'Quality Contracts' (a form of regulation similar to London). But New Labour still insists that 'the legitimate interests of the bus operators' (i.e. profits) must be safeguarded, even suggesting they help draw up the contract specifications before bidding for them! Clearly there is no solution to the problems of public transport, congestion and pollution on the basis of deregulation and 'Profit First' companies. Rather than subsidising the Big Five's profits, we must campaign for the regulation of bus services under democratic local control and renationalisation of all public transport (buses, trains and trams) so that it can be integrated and planned to really put passengers first.


Further proof that the liberal establishment's hatred of grammar schools is NOT about equality: it's about turning the mass population into dumb docile sheep who can be pushed around by liberal politicians. Grammar schools are the best avenue of upward mobility the British working class has -- which is why the BNP pledges to restore all those that have been closed, and open them in every community that wants them.

There are three problems with our schools. We are failing to give an excellent education to cleverer boys and girls. We are failing to give a sound basic education to less able pupils, especially in deprived areas. And we are failing to stimulate the social mobility that good education makes possible. Your educational chances, and your life chances, depend too much on where you live. The Government's City Academy programme attempts to address the problem of the underprivileged areas. It is expensive and unproven. Sadly, money and buildings do not solve all educational problems. We can expect successes and failures. On the other two problems, the Government's silence is deafening. Yet in the 21st century, Britain cannot afford to educate its people less well than the best in other countries. It is a personal tragedy as well as a national loss when many of our best youngsters are not helped to fulfill their potential. We have to educate everyone well if we are to compete with the rest of the developed world and the emerging economies of the East. We have some very good individual schools, including some good comprehensives, but the system as a whole simply does not achieve enough. International results put Britain so far down the league tables that it must be time to look at another way of doing things. Between 2000 and 2003, for instance, the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) showed the UK slipping from fourth to 11th in science and from eighth to 18th in maths.

However, there was one dazzlingly good result: when Pisa divided state schools from the private sector in 31 developed countries, our independent schools came top of the 62 groups. So if Britain is running the best schools in the world, why are we not also running the best state schools? I think, after 46 years in and around teaching, that I know the answer. An outworn ideology prevents the country from learning from the successful model in its midst. One of the most important lessons is that independent schools are schools of choice. They deal with reasonably willing pupils, with teachers who care about their subjects and their students, and with parents who are supportive. Independent schools are, in the real sense of the word, selective: the parents select the school and the school selects their sons and daughters. Where selection remains in the state system – in those English counties which have fought to retain grammar schools, and particularly in Northern Ireland – we can see its value. Their results show that selection works better, not just for the very able, but for the student body as a whole. In Northern Ireland, 10 per cent more pupils achieve five A*-C grades at GCSE than in England, and 30 per cent of A-level papers get an A grade compared to 22 per cent in England. That makes the Government's recent legislation intended to abolish selection in Northern Ireland particularly regrettable. But education is about much more than just exam results – and as well outperforming the rest of the UK in tests, Northern Ireland also provides the model for what a selective system can achieve for social mobility.

There, 42 per cent of university entrants come from less privileged backgrounds, compared to only 28 per cent in England. The concentration of our remaining grammar schools in a small number of mostly higher-income areas means that many able children from poor families miss out on the opportunities selective education can provide. Yet it is the poor who benefit most from access to grammar schools. Recent research from the University of Bristol compared the results of selective and non-selective LEAs. While the average level of attainment was not significantly higher, the minority of children from poor families who made it to grammar schools did 'exceptionally well', bumping up their average GCSE scores by seven or eight points – equivalent to converting their grades from Bs to As. This compared to a four-point uplift for grammar-school pupils as a whole. There is a way of extending these opportunities to pupils from all backgrounds in every part of the United Kingdom.

It is not a case of reverting to the 11-plus, nor of creating a few good schools for the academically able and forgetting about the rest. A pamphlet published this week by the Centre for Policy Studies (, Three Cheers for Selection: How Grammar Schools Help the Poor, proposes a selective system which would free schools to choose their students; which would offer ladders of opportunity to clever boys and girls from deprived areas; and which would create a national network of specialist academic schools. This is the debate we should be having: not a debate about whether or not to select, but on how to do it. Selection is unmentionable in political circles only because it is a synonym for the 11-plus. I would not want to go back to that. We should be debating more flexible methods of how best to choose pupils for schools and when. Almost everyone – except the lunatic fringe that would like university places decided by lottery – accepts selection at 18. But since good students have fallen by the wayside by then, what about 16, or 14? Why is it all right to select pupils for 'Gifted and Talented' programmes at a much younger age (and even to offer vouchers to the top 10 per cent, as the schools minister Lord Adonis proposes), but not to select them for particular schools? Why can specialist schools select 10 per cent of their intake for being good at languages or general studies, but not because they may be clever? New polling undertaken by ICM for the Centre for Policy Studies shows that the public is no longer in agreement with the politicians. Despite the years of public argument against selection, the majority favour it. The idea that more academic children maximise their potential through streaming, or by attending selective schools, is backed by 76 per cent of the public – and 73 per cent believe that this applies to less academic children, too. Even if the majority would still opt for a mixed-ability school for their own children, as many as 40 per cent would now choose a selective school if it was on offer. More than 50 per cent were in favour of schools being set free to choose their pupils by a mix of exams, interviews and head teachers' recommendations. The 40-year experiment with comprehensive education has failed. It was meant to provide, in Harold Wilson's words, 'grammar schools for all', and to lead to increased social mobility. It has done neither. It has not raised standards – and, as the Sutton Trust has recently shown, we now have a less mobile society than in the 1950s and 1960s. In effect, selection by ability has been replaced by selection by neighbourhood. That is neither sensible, nor egalitarian. It is time to rid ourselves of an outworn dogma and explore practical ways of making our schools as good as we can make them.