Coun­cil­lor pas­sion­ate about help­ing looked after pupils

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - by JASMINE RAP­SON Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

VUL­NER­A­BLE chil­dren who failed the 11-plus ex­ams could still be al­lowed to at­tend Bucks gram­mar schools in a ground-break­ing move for the county, if new plans are given the go-ahead.

Bucks County Coun­cil­lor (BCC) Gareth Wil­liams is call­ing for Dr Chal­loner’s High School to be given dis­cre­tionary pow­ers to al­low chil­dren liv­ing in care, who have not passed the en­trance ex­ams, to at­tend the school. If plans are given the green light, the coun­cil­lor for Amer­sham and Che­sham Bois hopes the new rules will be rolled out to gram­mar schools across Bucks in a bid to close the county’s at­tain­ment gap.

Dr Chal­loner’s High School in Lit­tle Chal­font and The Vir­tual School – which pro­vides ed­u­ca­tional sup­port for looked-after chil­dren - is working with BCC to at­tempt to change the ad­mis­sion cri­te­ria.

The coun­cil un­der­stands this could be a first for the UK.

Cllr Wil­liams said: “I met a young girl at the Chil­dren in Care awards. She was ar­tic­u­late and was just com­ing back into the county fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful fos­ter care place­ment.

“She was an ideal can­di­date for the gram­mar school, how­ever be­cause she had not passed her 11-plus she wasn’t given a place.

“There is no le­niency in the sys­tem for those who did not pass their 11plus, but had dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances. Par­tic­u­larly if there had been dif­fi­cul­ties at home or had been go­ing through a court case.

“It would al­low the head­teacher to ad­mit looked after chil­dren as and when the vir­tual school rec­om­mends.”

Last month it was re­ported that al­most two-thirds of vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren are under-per­form­ing at pri­mary school level – hav­ing not achieved the ex­pected stan­dard in read­ing, writ­ing and maths.

There are cur­rently a “piti­ful” num­ber of ‘ looked-after’ chil­dren in the county’s gram­mar schools, ac­cord­ing to Cllr Wil­liams, how­ever he added that talks are still in the early stages.

He said: “There may be some le­gal rea­son as to why we can’t do this.

“This is some­thing I am ex­tremely pas­sion­ate about – it is piti­ful the num­ber of looked-after chil­dren in Bucks gram­mar schools.

“We are sup­posed to be cor­po­rate par­ents. I look at ‘looked after’ chil­dren as a par­ent. What do we have to try to do to make sure they have the op­por­tu­ni­ties and ac­cess to this form of ed­u­ca­tion?”

If legally sound, the plans will have to be given the green light by the Gov­ern­ment be­fore they are im­ple­mented.

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