Chiefs un­der fire over gram­mar cash ‘snub’

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Jayne Thom­son News Re­porter

BIRM­ING­HAM’S Labour education bosses have been ac­cused of turn­ing their back on a wind­fall for gram­mar school education in the city.

The Gov­ern­ment is en­cour­ag­ing coun­cils to make bids to a £200 mil­lion gram­mar school fund.

Op­po­si­tion Con­ser­va­tives called on the coun­cil to en­cour­age the ex­pan­sion of Birm­ing­ham’s al­ready suc­cess­ful gram­mar schools, and of­fer more places to chil­dren in the city. But rul­ing Labour coun­cil­lors blocked the move, say­ing they want in­vest­ment across all types of school, ar­gu­ing gram­mar schools pre­dom­i­nantly help mid­dle class chil­dren.

Cabi­net mem­ber for chil­dren’s ser­vices Kate Booth, a Quin­ton Labour coun­cil­lor, said: “Gram­mar schools re­duce so­cial mo­bil­ity, they cre­ate a big­ger gap be­tween the haves and the have nots.

“They give an ad­van­tage in life to chil­dren with pushy par­ents, mid­dle class up­bring­ings and those who have money to pay for ex­tra coach­ing.”

The Con­ser­va­tives urged the coun­cil to cap­i­talise on the new Gov­ern­ment fund­ing for gram­mar school ex­pan­sions. The fund would al­low the likes of the King Ed­ward VI schools, Bishop Ve­sey School and Sut­ton Cold­field Gram­mar Schools for Girls to open new cam­puses and in­crease their an­nual in­take of pupils.

Gram­mar schools, who select high abil­ity pupils, are among the high­est rated in the coun­try in exam passes.

Deirdre Alden, Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil­lor for Edg­bas­ton, said: “Birm­ing­ham’s gram­mar schools are amongst the best in the coun­try, both in terms of ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment and the outreach work they do to pro­mote so­cial mo­bil­ity.

“They have been used as an ex­em­plar within the na­tional fund­ing an­nounce­ment for their work in sup­port­ing ac­cess to dis­ad­van­taged pupils.

“How­ever de­mand far out­strips sup­ply and we know that par­ents are des­per­ate for more places to be made avail­able. Birm­ing­ham’s gram­mars should be given every op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand and al­low more lo­cal chil­dren to ben­e­fit from their suc­cess.”

The Tories stressed that the Gov­ern­ment money is only avail­able for gram­mar schools and is not avail­able for, nor would be taken from, other types of schools in the city.

But rul­ing Labour group coun- cil­lors ac­cused the Con­ser­va­tives of short-chang­ing wider education in favour of its gram­mar school pol­icy. John Clancy, Labour coun­cil­lor for Quin­ton, and a former school teacher, said: “Gram­mar schools are not what the peo­ple of Birm­ing­ham want in this city. I spent most of my life teach­ing in com­pre­hen­sive schools and most had 33 per cent of pupils on free school meals.

“Gram­mar schools are not go­ing to give those peo­ple a lad­der, it would pull the lad­der up and set fire to it.”

He called for the gram­mar school fund­ing to be re­dis­tributed to all schools.

> Birm­ing­ham has a num­ber of suc­cess­ful gram­mar schools, de­spite Labour’s op­po­si­tion to them

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