Grammars do not help poor

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The Independent Online
CHILDREN FROM poor backgrounds are losing out to the middle classes in Britain's state grammar schools, according to new government figures.

The 166 remaining state selective schools are taking only a tiny fraction of the deprived children in their neighbourhoods, according to statistics which will reignite the battle over the last grammars. In some cases, the proportion of children eligible for free school meals in grammars - the standard measure of a school's social mix - is less than 10 per cent of their local authority average.

Yesterday, anti-selection campaigners said the figures destroyed claims that selective schools offered hope to bright children from deprived backgrounds. Margaret Tulloch, executive secretary of the Campaign for State Education, said: "These statistics show they don't just offer academic selection; it's social selection as well."

Local authority figures, contained in a House of Lords written answer, show a dramatic gap between the proportion of disadvantaged children at grammar schools compared with the local average. Across Britain, the proportion of children from disadvantaged backgrounds in grammars is only one-fifth of that in schools as a whole.

Mrs Tulloch, who is co-ordinating local campaigns against state grammars, said parents were preparing to challenge selection in one-third of the 32 authorities retaining the 11-plus.

John Harris, head of Simon Langton School for Boys in Canterbury and vice-chairman of the National Grammar School Association, said there was no evidence that selection harmed opportunities for children.

"There may be a socio-economic factor that inclines fewer people from poor backgrounds to go into grammar schools. But they are by no means excluded... We don't think free school meals per se are a particularly good indicator of how well youngsters will do at whatever school they attend," he said.