Grammar school consultation: Respondents wanted selective schools to take on 100% low-income pupils

Respondents to a high-profile government consultation on grammar schools mostly wanted them take all their pupils from poorer households, it has emerged.

The idea that new grammar schools should take 100 per cent of their pupils from lower-income backgrounds was the most popular among the 5,274 people who answered a question in the consultation about the proportion of poorer pupils they should take.

At present, only about 2.5 per cent of pupils at grammar schools are eligible for free school meals.

The Department for Education has today finally published its response to the 2016 ‘Schools that work for everyone’ consultation, which mooted opening the first new grammar schools in decades.

Although controversial plans to lift the ban on new selective schools were shelved after last year’s election, the government confirmed today that it will still allow existing grammars to expand.

The second most popular proposal on lower-income admissions was to take “between 75 and 90 per cent”.

A smaller proportion of respondents said that around half of all pupils admitted to new selective schools should be from lower-income households. A similar proportion said that between 10 and 40 per cent should be.

However, there is no breakdown of the raw numbers of people who chose each option in an analysis of the responses by Ipsos Mori, which was also published today.

This is because the polling firm adopted a “text analytics” approach to its analysis, due to “the number and unstructured nature of the responses”, of which there were 7,080 in total, the report said.

In many cases, respondents in favour of massively widening access were “opposed to new selective schools in general, and said they would be supportive only if they were made available almost exclusively to lower income pupils”, the report said.

According to Ipsos Mori, proportions given by respondents were “not further justified” in the “vast majority” of cases.

A “large” proportion of respondents felt that there should be “no set restriction on the proportion of pupils admitted on the basis of their household income”.

Those who were against the restrictions gave a variety of reasons. Some said that failing to select on academic ability alone ” defeated the object of selective schools”. Others claimed “disadvantage is subjective”, while some said quotas would lead to “inappropriate admissions”.

“There was concern that setting a target quota or benchmark could lead to pupils from lower income households being either inappropriately admitted to selective schools (where they did not have the academic ability) or being excluded (where they had the ability but the quota of lower income households was already fulfilled).”

Others believed setting benchmarks is “unviable” due to regional variation.

“For example, in an area with low proportions of lower income households, pupils might be expected to travel inappropriate distances in order to meet a selective school’s quota of lower income pupils.”