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Survey found 73 grammars favour children eligible for free school meals

19 October 2016 730 views No Comment

By Eleanor Harding for the Daily Mail
Analysis has revealed 21 schools set places for pupils from low-income families.

Further 43 give some degree of priority in their over-subscription criteria
But some schools were doing ‘absolutely nothing’ to help the poor

Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted she will defy opposition to push through her plans for a new generation of grammar schools. Almost half of grammar schools now prioritise poor pupils in admissions and some reserve up to a quarter of places for the least privileged, new research shows.
A survey carried out by the BBC found 73 out of the country’s 163 selective schools favour children who are eligible for free school meals – the official deprivation indicator.
The analysis revealed that 21 grammar schools set aside places in quotas for pupils from lower-income families. A further 43 give some degree of priority in their over-subscription criteria, while nine grammar schools use it as a tie-breaker for allocating places to academically matched pupils. The research was presented on Radio 4’s Today Programme, which pointed out that some schools were doing ‘absolutely nothing’ to help the poor
But Professor Anna Vignoles, from the University of Cambridge, said the measures were an ‘interesting development’ which would ‘make a difference’.
She told the program: ‘The good thing about the action that grammar schools are taking is that it will send a strong signal to primary schools and to parents that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are being prioritised, and that could influence some of the choices that children and their parents make because many poor students don’t even apply to grammar school.’
It comes amid government plans to reintroduce grammar schools into the poorest areas of the country in an effort to boost social mobility. It would reverse a ban imposed by Tony Blair in 1998 which stopped any new selective schools being created. Critics say competition is so fierce to get into grammar schools that only the wealthiest children – whose parents can afford private tutoring – can score highly on the admissions test and gain a place.
But the Grammar School Heads Association, which represents the leaders of the 163 remaining schools, is encouraging members to introduce quotas for poor pupils and other measures.
Grammar schools have in the past tried to introduce positive discrimination, but were prevented from doing so by the government.
However, in 2014 the admissions code was changed to allow all state-funded schools to prioritise places for children from the poorest backgrounds.
BBC researchers examined the most recently published admission policies for applications for 2017-18 of grammars.
They found the five grammar schools within the King Edward VI foundation in Birmingham go furthest, with a quota policy allocating up to 25 percent of places to pupils who are eligible for pupil premium funding in the order of their test scores.
This means children who have been entitled to free school meals, and therefore the pupil premium grant, in the past six years are considered before remaining places are awarded.
The policy has been in place for two years, so it will be some time before it fully alters the profile of the schools.
Urmston Grammar School, in Manchester, sets aside just three places out of an intake of 150 for pupils entitled to pupil premium.
The Skinners’ School in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, gives five places, out of 150, to pupils eligible for free school meals.
The Government has promised there will be no return to the 11 Plus entrance exam for grammar school pupils and insists Britain already has a ‘postcode lottery’, with richer parents moving to areas with better comprehensives.

Prime Minister Theresa May also stressed that new grammars will have to show they are ‘genuinely reaching out’ to poorer pupils and that education is ‘not going back to the 1950s’.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair (pictured) banned new grammar schools in 1998 -one year after the Labour Party won the general election
The government consultation document on grammar states: ‘Selective schools also need to ensure the pupils they admit are representative of their local communities.
However, Gary Hickey, headteacher of Adams’ Grammar School in Shropshire, said while he prioritises poorer pupils he would be wary of lowering entrance standards.
He said: ‘If you set lower standards, what we are potentially doing is setting them up to fail because they won’t be able to cope with the academic standards of the grammar school’.
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘The Government is currently consulting on scrapping the ban on new grammar schools, and allowing them to open where parents want them.
‘Too often, the chance of getting the best education depends not on their talent or hard work but on where they live or how much money their parents have.
‘Our new approach is not about recreating the binary system of the past or maintaining the status quo.
‘We want to look at how we can ensure new selective schools prioritise the admission of pupils from lower-income households and support other local pupils in non-selective schools to help raise standards.’

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