Twenty five grammar schools submitted bids for the £50 million Selective School Expansion Fund in 2019, with the Department for Education announcing that just six projects will receive funding. A condition of this funding is that the schools outline ‘ambitious and realistic plans’ to improve access for children from poor backgrounds.
Comprehensive Future’s chair, Dr Nuala Burgess, said, “The fact only six schools have been awarded funding is telling. Only £14 million out of the £50 million pot has been awarded, and we believe the relatively small awards this year is due to the fact that grammar schools are unable or unwilling to raise their numbers of disadvantaged pupils. It is a key condition of the Selective School Expansion Fund that they increase proportions of disadvantaged pupils, but it is still the case that the vast majority of grammar school places are filled by children from middle class families.”
A study of the 16 grammar schools awarded Selective School Expansion Funding in 2018 discovered that their plans to widen access had seen only 22 more pupils from poorer backgrounds sit the 11-plus exam.
Dr Nuala Burgess said, “The Selective School Expansion Fund was intended to boost the numbers of pupil premium children in grammar schools but it has failed in its mission and should be abandoned.”
The six grammar schools receiving government cash are spread across four local authority areas and will split £14.3 million to create an extra 1,100 school places. The schools are: King Edward VI Handsworth School in Birmingham; Ribston Hall High School in Gloucestershire; Haberdashers’ Adams in Telford and Wrekin; Newport Girls’ High School Academy in Telford and Wrekin; Altrincham Grammar School for Girls in Trafford, and Stretford Grammar School in Trafford.
The plan to build a controversial ‘satellite’ grammar school near Herne Bay in Kent was not one of the projects chosen to receive funding, and while ten schools in Kent applied for funding, all were turned down.
Dr Nuala Burgess said, “It’s worrying that the DfE appears to have prioritised grammar schools in less selective areas. When a grammar school expands, it immediately creates a ‘secondary modern’ effect, irreparably damaging the comprehensive profile of surrounding schools. It’s wrong that the government seems to be finding ways to expand selection without any attempt to assess the impact on neighbouring schools.”
“The 2020 round of the Selective School Expansion Fund has yet to be announced. We believe it’s time that this fund was quietly dropped so that the money can be spent elsewhere. Far better for the Department of Education to invest in schools that admit all local children without any test for entry. We need good local schools which welcome every child.”