The 16 grammar schools that will split the government’s first round of expansion funding have been named by the Department for Education.
According to the Daily Mail, the schools will share the first £50 million from the selective schools expansion fund. The pot of money provides capital funding for grammar schools to create new buildings on their sites.
The fund, which will see £200 million handed over to selective schools that agree to improve access for poorer pupils over four years, has been heavily criticised at a time when non-selective schools also face a funding shortfall. In May, Schools Week revealed that grammar schools already get proportionally more money from the government than comprehensive to spend on buildings.
But ministers have defended their plans, claiming they will result in “significantly more” help for disadvantaged children.
According to the Mail, the 16 schools across 12 counties selected for the first round of funding have all pledged to prioritise disadvantaged applicants. This will be done either through quotas or by lowering pass marks for those below an income threshold.
The schools will also provide free preparation materials, like practice papers, for the 11-plus.
A lower pass mark for pupils eligible for pupil premium funding has been pledged by over half of the schools. Some have said they’ll lower the mark by up to 10 points, the Mail reported.
One school has even pledged to admit all disadvantaged pupils living nearby, even if their mark is lower than others, “as long as they meet a minimum standard”.
Despite these concessions, the anti-selection Comprehensive Future campaign group labelled grammar school expansion “an evidence-free policy”.
“Current research is unequivocal: there is absolutely no benefit to expanding grammar schools,” said Dr Nuala Burgess, the group’s chair. “Most importantly, grammar schools do not raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.
“At a time when all school are desperately short of funds, finding £50 million for grammar schools is unfair and unjust. Grammar schools create social and educational segregation with schools in surrounding areas left to educate higher numbers of middle and lower attaining pupils, and a disproportionate number of pupils with special educational needs.”
Burgess pointed to Comprehensive Future research on existing policies aimed at improving access to grammar schools.
“Ninety-six grammar schools had priority admission policies for poorer pupils in 2017. Nonetheless, only 574 disadvantaged pupils successfully accessed 12,431 available grammar school places,” she said.
The government first announced plans for its selective schools expansion fund in 2016, along with controversial proposals that would have seen the ban on new grammar schools lifted. Most of the plans in that green paper were shelved, however, when the government lost its majority at last year’s snap general election.
Plans for the expansion fund were revived in May of this year, when the government set out a series of compromises on its original proposals.
Damian Hinds, the education secretary, said selective schools were an “important part” of the diversity of England’s education system.
“I have always been clear that selective schools will only be able to expand if they meet the high bar we have set for increasing access for disadvantaged children, and all of these schools have done that. As a result, countless more children from disadvantaged areas will benefit from places at outstanding schools.”
Altrincham Grammar School for Boys, Trafford
Bournemouth School for girls
Chemsford County High School, Essex
Colchester County High School, Essex
Colyton Grammar School, Devon
John Hampden Grammar School, Buckinghamshire
Kendrick School, Reading
Lawrence Sheriff School, Warwickshire
Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall
Queen Mary’s High School, Walsall
Sir Thomas Rich’s School, Gloucestershire
Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, Buckinghamshire
St Michael’s Catholic Grammar School, Barnet
Rochester Grammar School, Medway
Wolverhampton Girls High School, Wolverhampton