ESSEX’S leading education councillor insists he has “no influence” over the possibility of a grammar school campus opening in Basildon.

Ray Gooding was asked if he would “take up the baton” of creating a new grammar school in the borough during a meeting at County Hall.

It came after members of Basildon Council voted in support of the idea.

A Government policy does not allow new grammar schools to be created, so a Basildon site could only open if an existing school in Southend or Chelmsford decided to expand and set up an annexe.

Mr Gooding, county councillor responsible for education, was asked if he would take any action by Kerry Smith, independent councillor for Basildon Westley Heights.

Mr Gooding said: “Essex County Council welcomes the diversity we have within the school system.

“I have looked into the matter of opening up new grammar provision following the expansion on the Weald of Kent grammar school, in Kent, earlier this year.

“Technically legislation prevents the opening of any new schools which select their pupils on the basis of academic ability.

“However, the Department for Education does support the right of existing good schools to expand, including grammar schools.

“All of the grammar schools in Essex and Southend are academies and local authorities cannot propose the expansion of an academy, so this question is not something that either Essex County Council or Basildon Council has any influence over.”

At a Basildon full council meeting on Thursday, councillors approved a motion stating the authority is officially “pro-grammar school.”

It is the second full council meeting in a row where a motion in favour of a Basildon grammar campus has been debated and approved.

Labour voted against the motion, with Allan Davies, councillor for Fryerns, bemoaning a system that classes some youngsters as a “failure” at the age of 11.

But Amanda Arnold, Tory councillor for Pitsea South East, said: “No one is suggesting a return to the days of the two-tier system of grammars for able pupils and secondary moderns for the rest.

“This is about providing the type of school we don’t have, that children leave the borough to attend.”