May calls for grammar places for disadvantaged pupils

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that the expansion of grammar schools in England will be accompanied by conditions requiring them to accept a proportion of children from low-income families.

May claimed that the plans are being driving as part of a wider strategy to improve ‘social mobility’.

The Prime Minister said: "For too long we have tolerated a system that contains an arbitrary rule preventing selective schools from being established - sacrificing children's potential because of dogma and ideology.

"The truth is that we already have selection in our school system - and it's selection by house price, selection by wealth. That is simply unfair."

The news comes after the Sutton Trust education charity published data showing that only three per cent of grammar school entrants are eligible for free school meals, much lower than the national average of 14 per cent.

May is set to launh a consultation on new ways to expand grammar schools to make them more inclusive, so that access is not limited to those families which can ‘pay for tuition to pass the test’.

The consultation could mean grammars might have to: take a proportion of pupils from lower-income households; establish a ‘high quality, non-selective free school’; set up or sponsor a primary feeder school in a deprived area; and sponsor an underperforming academy.

However, some education officials have opposed the plans, with Kevin Courtney, leader of the National Union of Teachers, saying that opening new grammars was a ‘regressive move and a distraction from the real problems’ of funding pressures and teacher shortages.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the BBC, Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted chief inspector, said: "Academies, free schools, that's a Conservative programme. Let it work.

"Most of those academies, all of them as far as I'm aware - and free schools - are all-ability schools. And they are delivering better results, the best results that we've ever seen in this country.

"My concern is that by going backwards we will throw a spanner in the works and that momentum will be halted."

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