Progress slow in help­ing poorer chil­dren at school

Links be­tween pri­maries and gram­mars re­garded as cru­cial

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Helping Others - By Paul Fran­cis

Education chiefs say Kent has made only “minute” progress try­ing to nar­row the achieve­ment gap be­tween poorer pupils and those who are not dis­ad­van­taged.

Kent County Coun­cil education di­rec­tor Pa­trick Lee­son said that, de­spite the au­thor­ity’s ef­forts to close the gap, progress had been slow.

His com­ments came at the open­ing meet­ing of an in­quiry ex­am­in­ing the so­cial mo­bil­ity of gram­mar schools and whether those in Kent could do more to en­cour­age poorer chil­dren to take the 11-plus.

Fig­ures pre­sented to the meet­ing showed that of the 1,435 chil­dren on free school meals who sat the 11-plus in 2014, just 292 – about 8% – passed.

The num­ber of chil­dren on free school meals at­tend­ing Kent gram­mar schools re­mains chron­i­cally low at just un­der 3%, com­pared with 13% in non-selec­tive schools.

Three gram­mar schools have no chil­dren on free school meals based on the lat­est data: Tun­bridge Wells Girls Gram­mar, Si­mon Lang­ton Girls Gram­mar and Ton­bridge Gram­mar.

How­ever, other fig­ures show that those chil­dren from less well-off back­grounds who went to a gram­mar school did al­most as well in their GCSE ex­ams as oth­ers, with a gap of just 2%.

Over­all in Kent, the num­ber of poorer stu­dents se­cur­ing five or more good GCSE passes was 30%. Mr Lee­son said: “We have seen some move­ment in nar­row­ing the gap but it is minute. Greater so­cial mo­bil­ity will only come about if the whole school sys­tem does bet­ter for chil­dren on free school meals.”

There were “real chal­lenges” in chang­ing the as­pi­ra­tions of poorer chil­dren to get to a gram­mar school, he added.

But he re­jected sug­ges­tions that high-per­form­ing gram­mar schools were “se­lect­ing out” chil­dren and it would be wrong to blame pri­maries.

He said: “We have raised the is­sue with gram­mar schools and we have been en­cour­ag­ing gram­mar schools to work in part­ner­ship with pri­maries. You might say we have not suc­ceeded very far but there are some good ex­am­ples.”

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is ex­pected to be com­pleted in May.

What do you think? Write to Ken­tish Ex­press, 34-36 North Street, Ash­ford, TN24 8JR or email ken­tish­ex­press@thek­m­group.co.uk

Only 8% of chil­dren on free school meals in Kent passed the 11-plus in 2014

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