Comprehensive Future’s Freedom of Information request has revealed that the proportion of disadvantaged pupils accessing grammar schools has fallen from 8.48% in 2017 to 8.31% in 2019. The national average of disadvantaged pupils in secondary schools is 27.6%.

The figures show a small drop in three years, but the Department for Education will have expected better results, with an agreement with the Grammar School Heads Association leading to 125 out of 163 grammar schools now giving admission “priority” to disadvantaged children. These policies mean children in receipt of pupil premium funding have access to oversubscribed schools ahead of more advantaged children. The policies simply do not work because such low numbers of disadvantaged pupils pass the 11-plus test.

CF’s Chair, Dr Nuala Burgess, said, “These figures are a wake-up call. In spite of efforts to admit more disadvantaged pupils, grammar schools have failed to up their numbers, and that’s because the 11-plus test is inherently unfair. No amount of fiddling can alter the fact that children from affluent families who can afford 11-plus coaching are far more likely to win a grammar school place.”

The coronavirus pandemic means that year 5 pupils are working at home, ahead of sitting the 11-plus test in September. Many commentators feel that the attainment gap will widen, as poorer pupils often do not have the resources they need to work successfully from home.

Dr Nuala Burgess said, “It seems extraordinary that grammar schools still intend to run the test after months of disrupted schooling. While some children have spent lockdown prepping for the test with the help of personalised online 11-plus tuition, a comfortable home to work in and parental support, other children have had none of these things. Thousands of 10 years olds will be more seriously disadvantaged than ever when sitting the test this year.

“In England every public exam, apart from the 11-plus, has been cancelled. On the other hand, in Northern Ireland, there’s universal acknowledgement that the test cannot run as usual and many grammar schools will use comprehensive admissions. For the first time in decades, pupils will go to their local school without having to sit a test.

“It’s time that grammar schools in England found the moral courage to act. If grammar schools in selective counties such as Buckinghamshire, Kent and Lincolnshire do not cancel the 11-plus, the only failures this year will be those responsible for running a test they know to be unfair.”