More selective schools can bid for growth money while all schools face funding crisis

Janet Downs's picture

English schools are facing a funding crisis.  Yet the Department for Education (DfE) has found millions of pounds for selective schools to grow.  

There’s a condition attached: schools bidding for funding must show ‘deliverable and achievable plans’ to increase the number of disadvantaged pupils attending.

But analysis by TES shows only four of the sixteen grammars successful in the first round could predict their proportion of disadvantaged pupils would be above the national average of 13.6%.

A further four predicted the proportion would be lower while eight gave no figure.

The second round of bidding began yesterday.  Those applying needn’t worry about estimating the proportion of disadvantaged pupils expected to attend after expansion.  A DfE spokesperson told TES, applicants didn’t need to provide predictions, they just had to ‘provide deliverable but achievable plans – which they all have’. 

It’s unclear how deliverability and achievability can be measured without a target.   A cynic might say this allows chosen grammars to say they’ve increased the proportion of disadvantaged pupils when the actual increase is still very small.

Jim Skinner, chair of the Grammar School Heads’ Association, which dominated meetings with the DfE during the risible ‘consultation’ about Schools That Work for Everyone, told TES selective schools were ‘taking a wide range of actions’ to ensure the proportion of disadvantaged pupils in grammars increases to ‘above the national rate of 4 per cent of disadvantaged pupils who achieved the higher standard in the 2018 key stage 2 national curriculum assessments’.

Is it true that only 4% of disadvantaged pupils met ‘the higher standard’ in Key Stage Two SATs in 2018?    It depends what you mean by ‘higher standard’. 

Figures for 2018 are provisional and don’t appear to analyse results for disadvantaged pupils.  However, the 2017 data provides a breakdown.    The 4% figure is the proportion of disadvantaged pupil in the top 10% for scaled scores in the reading and maths tests.

But entry to grammar schools isn’t confined to those in the top 10% as judged by SATs.  Entry to grammars is decided by performance in 11+ tests.  The 11+ is supposed to select children in the top 20%.

How many disadvantaged pupils were in the top 20% of SAT scores in 2017?   The answer is 10%.

Expecting disadvantaged pupils attending grammars to be in the top 10% rather than the top 20% is hardly levelling the playing field as the Mail claims. 

In any case, the only true levelling of the playing field would be if all state-funded schools admitted all children and didn’t discriminate according to ability or faith.


CORRECTION: 13.02  The penultimate paragraph originally said 'Expecting disadvantaged pupils attending grammars to be in the top 4% rather than the top 10% is hardly levelling the playing field as the Mail claims.'  The percentages should have been 10% and 20% respectively.   This has now been corrected.

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