HOPES of opening a grammar school in Basildon took a step forward when councillors supported a motion calling for one of Southend’s four selective schools to expand into the borough.

The motion by Amanda Arnold, Tory councillor for Pitsea South East, urged existing grammar schools to consider a Basildon annexe “for the benefit of future generations”.

Government policy does not allow new grammar schools to be created, so Ms Arnold proposed an existing school setting up a Basildon campus.

There is precedent for such a move – in October a “new” grammar school was approved in Sevenoaks, Kent, which will officially be an annexe of an existing school in nearby Tonbridge.

Ms Arnold said: “We know we will need school places and while it may be up to Essex County Council to procure these, we should put our cards on the table right now and make it clear what we want.

“What message do we send to our brightest children if we say their choices are limited to the local schools we have?

“Let’s send the message we want to bring these outstanding schools here - we believe working with us will enhance their reputation.”

The Echo has contacted the four grammar schools in Southend and Westcliff for comment, but no one was available to comment.

Ukip’s Linda Allport-Hodge, who also supported the motion, said: “We want a school our brightest children across the borough can aspire to attend without paying out expensive travel costs.”

During the meeting a row erupted after Phil Rackley, Green councillor for St Martin’s, accused Tory mayor Don Morris of stifling debate by refusing to allow him to speak.

When the vote was taken, only Ms Arnold and Mrs Allport-Hodge had spoken.

Mr Rackley wanted to oppose the motion, but Mr Morris cut the debate short because the full council meeting on Thursday had passed its 11.30pm cut-off point.

It prompted Mr Rackley to shout: “This is totally wrong and totally undemocratic - it’s disgusting and you don’t want to hear opposition.”

After the meeting, Mr Morris told the Echo: “I just wanted to get on with it. I felt the motion would go through anyway, so why hang it out? It was nothing against anyone in particular.”