Kent grammar schools hindering social mobility

A report compiled by Education Datalab has warned that the odds are loaded against children from disadvantaged backgrounds who apply for grammar schools in Kent.

The study concluded that entrance tests for the county's grammars ‘understate the true academic abilities’ of poorer children and recommended the ‘heavily’ selective county will be a useful case study if grammars are rolled out nationally.

The news comes after the government announced plans for a new generation of grammar schools in England by 2020.

The analysis involved data for children who sat the 11-plus in 2015, obtained under Freedom of Information law by Kent Education Network, which opposes selective education. The figures showed 12 per cent of free school meals pupils passed the test in
2015, compared with 30 per cent of their better off classmates.

The study outlined that Kent primary schools are ‘explicitly asked not to prepare their pupils’ for the 11-plus tests, which ultimately favours children whose parents can pay for private schools or tutoring.

Free school meals pupils fare worst in the verbal and spatial reasoning paper. The study highlighted a difference between the scores of pupils on free school meals and those of their classmates of: 7.7 points in the reasoning paper; 6.8 points in maths; and 3.9 points in English.

Lead author Rebecca Allen explained: “With only around one in four children getting into grammar school, and with the odds stacked against those from poorer backgrounds, securing access to a grammar school in Kent is like rolling a loaded dice.”

Patrick Leeson, Kent County Council's corporate director for education, said: “We recognise that there is still more to be done.

"We are working to improve education for all children in Kent, which includes ensuring that students from any background can attend grammar schools and benefit from a selective education if that is the right choice for them."

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