County coun­cil has ‘moral duty’ to help poorer chil­dren into gram­mar schools

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Social Mobility Review Findings - By Paul Fran­cis

Kent County Coun­cil has a “moral re­spon­si­bil­ity” to do more to help brighter poorer chil­dren get to gram­mar school, a re­port by a cross-party group of county coun­cil­lors ex­am­in­ing so­cial mo­bil­ity has con­cluded.

The re­port fol­lows an in­quiry ex­am­in­ing ways in which bright chil­dren from less well-off fam­i­lies could be en­cour­aged to go to gram­mar school.

The in­quiry was set up amid con­cerns that the gram­mar school sys­tem was skewed to­wards more af­flu­ent fam­i­lies and that poorer fam­i­lies were dis­ad­van­taged when it came to the 11-plus.

County coun­cil­lors say in the re­port, which makes 17 rec­om­men­da­tions, that both KCC and pri­mary and sec­ondary schools should do much more than they do now to help dis­ad­van­taged fam­i­lies ac­cess gram­mar schools.

The re­port says it would ideally like to see the restora­tion of a scheme that gave free school trans­port to those whose near­est schools were more than three miles away.

Coun­cil­lors say KCC should ex­tend free school trans­port to all chil­dren who are el­i­gi­ble for the pupil pre­mium.

They also sug­gest that schools con­sider a trans­port bur­sary to pay for “be­spoke” bus ser­vices in ru­ral ar­eas.

It also says the in­come thresh­old for par­ents to qual­ify for free trans­port should be in­creased to £21,000.

In a fore­word to the re­port, com­mit­tee chair­man Cllr Jenny Whit­tle (Con) said: “It is clear that chil­dren from poorer back­grounds and those in care are un­der-rep­re­sented in gram­mar schools.

“We be­lieve that KCC, pri­mary and sec­ondary schools have a moral re­spon­si­bil­ity to work to­gether to sup­port the most aca­dem­i­cally able chil­dren from dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds to ac­cess gram­mar school.”

The in­quiry found that at gram­mar schools, just 2.8% of chil­dren were on free school meals com­pared with 13.4% in non-se­lec­tive schools.

But it also found there were far fewer chil­dren who re­ceived pupil pre­mium fund­ing at gram­mars – 6.3% – than at non-se­lec­tive schools, where the fig­ure was 27%.

Pupil pre­mium fund­ing is given to schools to nar­row the stan­dards gap be­tween poorer chil­dren and their peers.

Cllr Whit­tle said that while there was ev­i­dence of good part­ner­ships be­tween pri­mary schools and gram­mars, it was not the case across the county.

She said: “That just 57% of high-abil­ity chil­dren in re­ceipt of the pupil pre­mium in Kent at­tend a gram­mar school, com­pared to 79% of sim­i­lar abil­ity chil­dren not el­i­gi­ble for pupil Re­view leader Cllr Jenny Whit­tle pre­mium, high­lights that con­certed ac­tion needs to be taken to en­sure that more aca­dem­i­cally able chil­dren from poorer back­grounds have the same ac­cess to se­lec­tive ed­u­ca­tion as their more af­flu­ent peers.”

Coun­cil­lors also call on Kent’s 32 gram­mars to do more to tackle the view that they are not there for poorer fam­i­lies.

“All gram­mars should pro­vide more out­reach to pri­mary schools in­clud­ing af­ter-school clubs in English and maths, men­tor­ing and prepa­ra­tion for the Kent test,” the re­port says.

The in­quiry’s find­ings will now be pre­sented to the county coun­cil’s cab­i­net for dis­cus­sion.

‘It is clear chil­dren from poorer back­grounds are un­der-rep­re­sented in gram­mar schools’

Pic­ture: Ryan McVay

Coun­cil­lors urge Kent’s 32 gram­mar schools to do more to tackle the view that they are not there for poorer fam­i­lies

Pic­ture: Alan Smith

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