PRIMARY headteachers should not work in Southend if they oppose grammar schools on ideological grounds, a senior Tory councillor has said.

James Courtenay spoke out at a Southend Council meeting and urged heads to teach elsewhere if they did not want to send their pupils to selective schools.

He made the comments at the council’s people scrutiny committee, which discussed the falling number of Southend pupils being admitted to the town’s grammar schools.

Labour councillor David Norman had suggested some primary headteachers opposed grammar schools on “ideological grounds”.

Mr Courtenay, councillor responsible for education, said: “I would be happy to tell any headteacher to their face, in private, that if they don’t like grammar schools then they should not come to work in a borough where there are four grammar schools.”

Mr Norman, himself a governor and former grammar school pupil at Westcliff School for Boys, told the committee: “There are schools in the town where headteachers have shown themselves to be ideologically opposed to the 11-plus.

“One parent said, when she went to one particular school, she was told ‘If you want your child to go to grammar school, don’t send them here, send them to the school up the road.’ “That shows the scale of the work we have to do.”

Tory councillor Sally Carr suggested as many children as possible should be encouraged to sit the 11-plus.

A test tutor herself, she said she had been surprised many times by pupils’ results.

She said: “Having taught the 11-plus for 30 years, I can honestly say you never know how well a child is going to do.

“There are always ones you think ‘I don’t think so’ but they surprise you in the end.

“I’ve said to a parent ‘I think I’m wasting your money’ and, at the end of the day, the child got through.

“I hope the message to the headteachers is to encourage the children to take the exams as I don’t think anyone should be discouraged from it with the attitude that, if you pass, well done, but if you don’t, it doesn’t matter.

“Life is all about having a go and, if you don’t succeed in one area, you try again.”