Monday, July 22

Tory’s new plans provides £50m a year to help grammar schools expand



Opposition to the latest attempt to revive grammar schools remains undimmed, as the government published details of its plans to pump funds into making more places available at selective schools in England.

The government is arguing for expanding school admissions on the basis of exam results for children at 11 – but its latest effort appears unlikely to win converts despite the claim by the education secretary, Damian Hinds, that it will promote social mobility.

Kiran Eyre, a governor of a state school with a high proportion of pupils from disadvantaged families, said he was appalled by the government’s plan.

There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that increasing grammar school places improves progressive educational outcomes, said Eyre, a governor of Coombe Road primary school in Brighton.

Inequality is on the rise and selective education widens the gap further. Schools should reflect wider society; people of different faiths, backgrounds and skills working together, with those who come from lower-income families being given a real chance to improve their lives.

The plans announced by Hinds would provide £50m a year to existing grammar schools to expand, either by providing more places or by building new annexes or satellite campuses, potentially in different towns.

The opening of new grammar schools is barred by legislation passed under Tony Blair’s government in 1998, but the current government has said satellites of existing schools could be approved.

Natalie Perera, the executive director of the Education Policy Institute, said grammar schools posed a threat to the prospects of disadvantaged children.

Our research finds that, as the number of grammar places increases, a penalty emerges for all pupils who live nearby but don’t get in and this penalty is larger for disadvantaged pupils than non-disadvantaged pupils, Perera said.

Indeed, the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is wider in wholly selective areas than in non-selective areas.

Hinds said the new funding would be tailored towards existing grammar schools that make an effort to attract and admit children from disadvantaged families and backgrounds.

To be able to expand as a selective school, you will need to come forward with a proposal of how you are going to reach out further with individual primary schools, look again at your admissions to make sure you are as inclusive as possible, because we want more children from disadvantaged backgrounds to be able to access that education, Hinds told the BBC.

Catholic leaders were unhappy with the government’s backtracking on an election promise to lift the 50% limit on admissions by religion for free schools with a faith designation. The cap has meant the Catholic church has refused to open free schools for fear of having to turn away Catholics in favour of non-Catholics.

The government has broken this promise, dropped the pledge they made to our country’s 6 million Catholics and ignored the tens of thousands of Catholics who campaigned on this issue, said Malcolm McMahon, the Catholic archbishop of Liverpool, who called the cap unfair.

Instead, the government is to allow religious groups to open new voluntary-aided schools that could admit 100% of entrants from a single faith, but would require a financial contribution.

Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi, said the decision to allow new voluntary-aided faith schools would be welcomed warmly by the vast majority of our community.

The Rev Nigel Genders, the Church of England’s chief education officer, said: We have a strong track record of providing around 1,700 [voluntary-aided] schools and welcome the opportunity to consider developing more of them.

One group was happy with the consultation’s outcome: universities in England welcomed the removal of plans to force them to sponsor state schools.