Grammar schools asked to prioritise poorest pupils

The body representing most of the country’s grammar school headteachers will encourage its members to “prioritise” the poorest pupils in their admissions.

The Grammar School Heads Association has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department for Education aimed as part of a push to improve access to selective schools for poorer children.

The government has already set out plans to make grammar schools become more inclusive if they want cash for expansion, but the agreement with the GSHA is an attempt to encourage selective schools to change their ways by the end of the parliament in 2022.

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

The DfE has agreed to support the GSHA, which represents 150 of the country’s 163 grammar schools, to deliver a number of commitments through data-sharing and expertise form its school infrastructure and access division.

In return, the GHSA will encourage its member schools to design admission arrangements which increase access to their schools for disadvantaged pupils. In particular, they will aim to prioritise those eligible for pupil premium funding, and consider how to publicise this to applicants and other schools.

They will also seek to boost partnerships between selective schools and non-selective schools, at both primary and secondary level, and seek to increase the number of applications from disadvantaged pupils

However, there is no firm obligation on any school to comply with any of the terms of the agreement.

The plans to set up a formal agreement between grammar schools and the government to widen access for disadvantaged pupils were delayed in January by the cabinet reshuffle and appointment of Damian Hinds and the new education secretary.

Schools minister Nick Gibb first revealed plans for the formal agreement last year in his response to a recommendation from the parliamentary education committee that the 11-plus test should not be the only basis for admissions to grammar schools.

Under the terms of the agreement, both sides with review their progress annually and report back.

This report will look at changes to admissions arrangements and whether numbers of disadvantaged pupils applying has increased by 2022.