'Grammar schools fail children from poor families'

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Official figures released yesterday contradict the idea that grammar schools give poor children a leg-up in life, anti-selection campaigners say.

Official figures released yesterday contradict the idea that grammar schools give poor children a leg-up in life, anti-selection campaigners say.

Figures in a parliamentary written answer to David Chaytor, Labour MP for Bury North, show that only 2.7 per cent of pupils in grammar schools are eligible for free school meals, a common indicator of poverty, compared with 17.1 per cent across England.

In some areas, huge gaps exist between the proportion of pupils given free school meals in grammar and comprehensive schools. For Birmingham, the figures are 5.1 and 36.1 per cent, in Wirral 5.4 and 34.4.

Overall, the percentage of ethnic-minority pupils in grammar schools is only just below those in comprehensives - 11.4 compared with 11.9.

However, there is no consistent pattern across the country. In Redbridge, east London, nearly half the pupils in both grammar and comprehensives are from ethnic minorities. But in Wolverhampton, 32.6 per cent of pupils in comprehensives are from ethnic minorities while only 19.4 of pupils in grammars are from the same communities. In Buckinghamshire, the respective figures are 25.8 and 13.8.

Margaret Tulloch of the Campaign for State Education, said: "These figures give the lie to the idea that for poor children selection is a way out of poverty. People believe that in the good old days, selection allowed poor children to do well. Even if that were once true, it certainly isn't any longer."

Elspeth Insch, head of King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls in Birmingham, said she was the daughter of a factory worker and had benefited from a grammar school education. "These figures are a great sadness to me. Education is failing working-class children up to the age of 11. With very rare exceptions, children from the inner cities do very badly in national tests at 11."

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