CELEBRITY QEGS pupil Wayne Hemingway has warned that his old grammar’s bid for free school status must not compromise standards.

The internationally famous designer backs the plan but it concerned about the effect of scrapping the current entrance exam.

He spoke out as East Lancashire’s oldest grammar school’s proposal to take advantage of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s new initiative to provide taxpayers’ cash to schools free of local council control produced a mixed reaction.

Mr Hemingway’s concerns were echoed by senior Blackburn with Darwen Tory councillor Alan Cottam.

Hyndburn Labour MP Graham Jones said QEGS, founded in 1509, should have joined the mainstream state system if it wanted to scrap its £10,000 a year fees. Mr Hemingway said: “QEGS was a splendid school to go to and made me what I am today. I passed my entrance exam and got a bursary that paid my fees.

“If this opens up the school to a wider range of children, that is a good thing. I am not sure about abolishing the entrance exam. It is important that QEGS keeps up the educational standards that make it the school that it is.”

Coun Cottam said: “This is a disappointment but I understand why they are doing it. If they keep up the standards it will be a good thing but I am concerned that they keep the current ethos and high standards of the current fee-paying grammar school. Blackburn and East Lancashire need a school like QEGS.”

Mr Jones, who passed the entrance exam for QEGS but refused to go, said: “I am in favour of a comprehensive education system open to all pupils. I would rather if QEGS wanted state money they had chosen the academy route or joined the local education authority system.”

Parent of two daughters at the school, heart charity activist Nick Hartshorne-Evans said: “Personally I am pleased it will save me thousands of pounds a year.

“It is a positive move to open up the school to children from all backgrounds.

“I am sure the staff will keep up its current high standards.”

President of the Old Blackburnians’ association and former QEGS pupil and teacher Barry Brown said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to open up the superb education at QEGS to wider group of young people in Blackburn and across East Lancashire.”