The Selective School Expansion Fund launched in 2018, with the aim of expanding selective schools while boosting the number of disadvantaged pupils educated in grammar schools. The first 16 selective schools were awarded nearly £50 million to expand, and implemented measures including outreach work and priority admissions to help poorer pupils. Yet a Freedom of Information request sent to the schools by CF has revealed that the proportion of disadvantaged pupils has fallen in at least five of these grammar schools. A Schools Week investigation reports the fact that 367 new places were created, but just 77 additional pupil premium places. This means each additional place for a disadvantaged pupil has cost more than £630,000.
Schools receiving cash were expected to have “ambitious but deliverable” plans for increasing access for poorer pupils, and this was the first year such plans came into effect based on admission offers sent in March this year. The schools themselves seem sceptical that things will improve with their September 2021 admissions with grammar heads admitting the pandemic has disrupted plans for outreach work.
Comprehensive Future’s Chair, Dr Nuala Burgess, said, “It’s clear that these grammar schools were given £50 million for a plan that simply didn’t work. The idea that selective schools can do some outreach work and tweak admission policies to improve their intake of disadvantaged pupils shows a fundamentally flawed approach to improving educational outcomes for poorer pupils. There is a mountain of evidence which shows high attaining pupils from poorer backgrounds lose out because parents can’t afford coaching. The DfE appears to seriously misunderstood the ways in which more affluent families buy advantage in the grammar school racket.
In short, the Selective School Expansion Fund appears to have achieved exactly the opposite of its original purpose: it has provided more grammar school places for the middle classes.”
“The Selective School Expansion Fund has failed to open up grammar schools to disadvantaged pupils. Therefore, it should be disbanded and funds redirected to help our cashed-starved non-selective schools. The funds would be far better spent on providing school places where they are needed and to help comprehensive schools continue in their mission to educate every child, irrespective of their family background and level of attainment. Comprehensive schools are the kind of schools which nurture every child’s abilities and make every child welcome. I defy any parent who says that is not what they want for their child.”