Six grammar schools across four local authority areas will split £14.3 million to expand and create an extra 1,100 school places, the Department for Education has announced.
The successful schools make up less than a quarter of the 25 schools who bid for the second tranche of the selective schools expansion fund (SSEF).
A key criteria for a slice of the expansion fund is that applicants have to demonstrate that they have “ambitious but deliverable plans” to increase access for pupils eligible for the pupil premium.
The successful schools are King Edward VI Handsworth School in Birmingham, Ribston Hall High School in Gloucestershire, Haberdashers’ Adams, and Newport Girls’ High School Academy, both in Telford and Wrekin, and Altrincham Grammar School for Girls and Stretford Grammar School – both in Trafford.
But the focus on regions that are traditionally less selective than other parts of the country has prompted concerns.
Professor John Jerrim, from the UCL Institute of Education, said: “Ten of the 25 applied were from Kent or Medway and none were successful whereas it’s very different for Trafford and Wrekin and Telford, where most who applied got it.
“It is very clearly a case of grammar school expansion creeping into less selective areas by the back door”.
Dr Nuala Burgess, chair of the anti-selection campaign group Comprehensive Futures, echoed the concern: “It’s worrying that the DfE appears to have prioritised grammar schools in less selective areas.
“When a grammar school expands, it immediately creates a ‘secondary modern’ effect, irreparably damaging the comprehensive profile of surrounding schools. It’s wrong that the government seems to be finding ways to expand selection without any attempt to assess the impact on neighbouring schools.”
The funds earmarked this year is far short of the £49.3m million allocated on expansion projects last year across 16 schools to create over 2,700 more grammar school places.
Burgess said that the fact that only six schools have been awarded funding “is telling”.
“Only £14 million out of the £50 million pot has been awarded, and we believe the relatively small awards this year is due to the fact that grammar schools or unable or unwilling to raise their numbers of disadvantaged pupils.
“It is a key condition of the Selective School Expansion Fund that they increase proportions of disadvantaged pupils, but it is still the case that grammar school places are often being filled by children from middle class families.”