The government has announced the 16 grammar schools who will receive a share of the £50 million Selective Schools Expansion Fund. The decision to fund these schools has been widely criticised. The Times highlighted the low numbers of disadvantaged pupils in the chosen schools. The Guardian highlighted the fact few pupils with SEND will attend these schools. Schools Week took an in-depth look at the schools and found none of their targets for pupil premium pupils will match the proportions in local community schools, most of the schools have already been given building cash this year, and despite Damian Hind’s point that this funding will increase places in ‘outstanding’ schools, only four of the schools have a current Ofsted rating. Read our thoughts on this scandalous use of education funds here.
Our AGM event was a great success with an interesting debate about emotional wellbeing and the social implications of 11-plus selection. There were some good points raised about the ‘lost voices’ of those who fail the 11-plus, plus discussion on the increasing use of stressful testing in schools. We elected Dr.Nuala Burgess as our new chair, with Melissa Benn standing down as chair and taking a new role as vice chair. You can read about our new chair here, and Melissa Benn shares her thoughts on four years as chair here.
The Guardian looked at the ultra-competitive world of 11-plus test tuition. The article looked at problems for parents who can not afford tutors, and research which shows that wealthier families are much more likely to use private tutors to prepare their children for the entrance exam. The article points out that, ‘fewer than 10% of children from families with below-average incomes received coaching, compared with about 30% from households in the top quarter. About 70% of those who received tutoring got into a grammar school, compared with 14% of those who did not.’ Test tuition is clearly causing stress and unfairness in grammar school areas.
Another news story looked at inequality in parental contributions in schools. We know that grammar schools contain many more pupils from wealthy backgrounds than comprehensive schools, and this is reflected in the money they receive from parents. Grammar schools received an average donation of £154,795 over five years, compared with just £31,381 at schools with no academic selection. At a time of school funding cuts selective schools clearly have an advantage in being able to request additional funding from parents. We feel sure that there is even greater inequality in selective areas, secondary modern schools were not singled out in this study, but we know they contain high proportions of disadvantaged pupils so find it hard to ask for contributions. A secondary school divide causes clear inequality for poorer pupils.
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