Government gives 16 grammar schools in England a share of £50m funding pot to expand

Critics denounce scheme that will benefit just 4,000 pupils  

Nick Gibb on Grammar Schools

The identities of the grammar schools which will share £50m funding to create just 4,000 additional places for pupils have been unveiled by the government.

Campaigners and headteachers have criticised the allocation of the taxpayers’ money which comes during a funding crisis in state schools.

Almost half of the grammar schools chosen to receive the funding are located in the home counties and only one school that will benefit from the Selective School Expansion Fund is in the north of England.

Three in four of the selective schools chosen by the government are in the constituencies of Conservative MPs.

It will cost £12,500 to fund each new grammar school place under the expansion scheme, the figures suggest, which is more than double the amount that state secondary schools are given per pupil. The amount spent on each secondary school child in England was £6,200 in 2017-18.

The details of how the £50m expansion fund will be allocated came after school leaders warned that parents are increasingly being asked to pay for essentials.

Jules White, the headteacher behind the Worth Less? campaign group, said the expansion of grammar school places at a time of “huge financial constraint” raised significant questions.

“When the Department for Education only ever talks about efficiencies rather than proper investment for schools, we are concerned that today’s announcement allowing for £50m to be shared amongst just 4,000 children is ill-judged,” he said. “It seems that the Treasury and the Department for Education can always find money for projects that suit an ideological direction.

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“At the same time, when the need to fund each child’s education properly arises, we are told that money is in short supply.”

The announcement follows criticism that existing grammar schools do not help improve social mobility. Figures show that around 2.6 per cent of grammar school pupils are on free school meals, compared to 14.1 per cent across all school types.

Nuala Burgess, chair of campaign group Comprehensive Future, said: “The myth that grammar schools boost social mobility is one which is pedalled to the public in order to justify their existence. All the research shows that grammar schools are not engines of social mobility for disadvantaged pupils.”

She added: “At a time when all school are desperately short of funds, finding £50m for grammar schools is unfair and unjust.

“Grammar schools create social and educational segregation with schools in surrounding areas left to educate higher numbers of middle and lower attaining pupils, and a disproportionate number of pupils with special educational needs.”

But the government has said that the existing grammar schools have been selected based on their action plans to improve access for disadvantaged children. More than half of the schools have committed to lowering the mark required to pass the entrance test for poorer pupils.

Education secretary Damian Hinds said: “One of the standout features of this country’s education system is its diversity, and selective schools are an important part of that. They include some of the best schools in this country, with almost all selective schools rated Good or Outstanding, and they are popular with parents.

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“So it is right that when there is need for more places in an area, these schools should be able to expand – as other schools can – to enable as many children as possible to benefit.”

He added: “I have always been clear that selective schools will only be able to expand if they meet the high bar we have set for increasing access for disadvantaged children, and all of these schools have done that. As a result, countless more children from disadvantaged areas will benefit from places at outstanding schools.”

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We would rather see the money spent on creating places in non-selective schools as we believe this is the most effective way of benefiting pupils from all backgrounds.

“There are many excellent non-selective schools in which children of all abilities thrive.”

The 16 schools that will receive funding are:

  • Altrincham Grammar School for Boys (Trafford)
  • Bournemouth School (Bournemouth)
  • Bournemouth School for Girls (Bournemouth)
  • Chelmsford County High School (Essex)
  • Colchester County High School (Essex)
  • Colyton Grammar School (Devon)
  • John Hampden Grammar School (Buckinghamshire)
  • Kendrick School (Reading)
  • Lawrence Sheriff School (Warwickshire) 
  • Queen Mary’s Grammar School (Walsall)
  • Queen Mary’s High School (Walsall)
  • Sir Thomas Rich’s School (Gloucestershire)
  • Sir William Borlase’s Grammar school (Buckinghamshire)
  • St Michael’s Catholic Grammar School (Barnet)
  • Rochester Grammar School (Medway)
  • Wolverhampton Girls High School (Wolverhampton)

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