DEEP divisions over the future of selective education in North Yorkshire schools look set to be reopened after plans for a city-wide referendum on the issue emerged.

The poll, which is expected to take place soon in Ripon, comes just over a year after the city was at the centre of a parental ballot on the future of the 11-plus exam, at Ripon Grammar School.

The pro-selection campaigners were victorious last year, but the poll currently being sought through Ripon City Council would be open to all electors in the city and not just parents of feeder schools.

The referendum has been called for by resident Stanley Mackintosh, who says he has secured the ten people needed to trigger the vote at the authority's annual parish meeting later this month.

Mr Mackintosh wants Standard Assessment Tests to be the main selection method for the city's two secondary schools - Ripon Grammar and Ripon College.

The tests are taken each year at junior schools and, under Mr Mackintosh's proposals, would be used to determine selection for secondary schools, with the 11-plus being scrapped.

The top 24 per cent of pupils would be eligible for grammar school places without testing and the lower 49 per cent directed to non-grammar schools. The remainder would take further tests if they wanted to be considered for grammar school entry.

Mr Mackintosh said that by extending the vote to all electors, the true voice of Ripon residents could be heard.

But the proposal has already been condemned as a "waste of time and money" by Ripon Mayor Paul Freeman, who said all primary school head teachers in the city were opposed to it.

Fears have been expressed that the poll could cost the city council £5,000 from an annual budget of about £60,000.

Councillor Freeman challenged Mr Mackintosh to highlight which cuts could be made to make up the shortfall in cash.

"I just cannot understand why he is doing this," he said.

Coun Freeman also pointed out that North Yorkshire County Council was undertaking its own consultation on future selection methods.

A city council spokesman confirmed that Harrogate Borough Council would make arrangements for the vote if ten electors backed the parish poll