Twelve of the sixteen outstanding grammar schools ‘chosen’ for expansion haven’t been inspected for eight years or more. Five* were last inspected in 2008. And five** haven’t had a full inspection since 2007.
Inspection reports from many years ago are not fit for purpose. Schools minister Nick Gibb doesn’t agree. He’s refused to lift the exemption from further inspections granted to outstanding schools.
Despite having outdated inspection ratings, education secretary Damian Hinds boasted that ‘thousands of new places [will be] created in outstanding schools’ when he named the sixteen grammar schools awarded a chunk of the £50m selective schools expansion fund.
But these thousands of extra places won’t be available for all children. They will only be available to those who pass the 11+.
Hinds says the schools were chosen because they put in plans to increase the number of pupil premium children attending their schools. This could be done by, say, reducing the 11+ pass rate for disadvantaged children or providing outreach to primary schools.
The average proportion of children eligible for free school meals (FSM) in the chosen schools is just 1.9%. Increasing the proportion from such a low base is unlikely to match the proportion of FSM children locally. In any case, grammar schools only accept pupils who score highly in selection tests. Even if the pass rate is lowered for FSM pupils, they won’t be reduced so low that ‘not bright’ children would get a place.
Children who don’t pass the selection test, whether disadvantaged or not, will NOT gain a place in a selective school.
The education secretary implies grammar schools had been unable to grow before the selective schools expansion scheme was introduced. This is not true. In Kent, for example, the number of grammar school places has already increased. In Lincolnshire, Bourne Grammar increased its pupil admission number as soon as it became an academy. It has received over £1m for new buildings and developmental work – none of it from the £50m selective schools expansion fund.
Hinds says that ‘one of the stand-out features of this country’s education system is its diversity’ and selective schools are an important part’. But a diverse system which includes schools able to choose which pupils attend is a discriminatory one. Schools funded by the state should be open to all.
*John Hampden Grammar (Bucks), Kendrick School (Reading), Queen Mary’s Grammar (boys, Walsall), St Michael’s Catholic Grammar (Barnet), Rochester Grammar
**Chelmsford County High, Colyton Grammar (Devon), Lawrence Sheriff (Rugby), Queen Mary’s High (girls, Walsall), Sir Thomas Rich’s (Gloucestershire),