Parents in legal challenge over grammar schools' plan to reduce 11-plus pass mark

Parents are raising cash to challenge an academy trust’s plans to lower the pass mark for entry to its grammar schools.

The King Edward VI Academy Trust, which runs six grammar schools in Birmingham, plans to introduce new catchment areas from next September that will give priority to disadvantaged pupils who live close to a school, but achieve slightly lower entry scores.

However, thousands of parents have signed a petition against the plans with the BBC reporting this week that the Save Birmingham Grammar Schools group is raising funds for legal advice about challenging the proposals.

The group has already reached more than half of its £3,000 target.

It is not clear what sort of legal representations the parents are looking into.

As with all major admission changes, objectors can raise concerns free with the independent Office of the Schools Adjudicator.

But it comes amid a government push for grammars to admit more disadvantaged pupils. The first to win a slice of a £50 million expansion fund to help boost the numbers of poor pupils in selective schools was announced in December.

However, Schools Week revealed many would still “lag behind” in support for poorer pupils.

The King Edward VI trust, which did not have any schools selected for the extra cash, wants to boost the number of children from low income families on its rolls to 25 per cent.

Heath Monk, its executive director, told Schools Week: “We are doing this because we think it’s the right thing to do for disadvantaged children living in Birmingham. We want them all to know what they have to do to get a place at their local grammar school.

“We have children travelling all over the city because they can’t get into their nearest school. This is all about making the process more transparent for local parents and local disadvantaged parents.”

He said he was confident the changes were “completely within the spirit of the [admissions] code and within government policy for admissions in grammar schools”.

Kaja Fawthrop, from the Save Birmingham Grammar Schools group, told the BBC: “The thing we are still most against is the…unfair advantage to some children given where they live, and lack of opportunity to children who would otherwise be admitted.”

But Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, said: “Classic middle-class opportunity hoarding – accusations that grammar schools lowering grades for disadvantaged pupils isn’t ‘meritocratic’. In fact the education system is tilted grotesquely towards the privileged.”