County council has ‘moral duty’ to help poorer children into grammar schools
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’
Councillors urge Kent’s 32 grammar schools to do more to tackle the view that they are not there for poorer families