The government is to force grammar schools to offer lower 11-plus pass marks to poorer children, to end the “middle class stranglehold” on selective schools according to a report in The Times, reports Schools Week.
The move is in a bid to make selective schools less elitist.
Government ministers said last year that new grammars would have to take a cohort of pupils from lower-income backgrounds, but The Times report suggests that this will also apply to the existing grammar schools in England.
However, researchers say such a policy could undermine grammar schools’ selective nature.
Education Datalab warned last year that boosting the intake of poorer pupils through lower 11-plus pass rates would require grammar schools to loosen entry requirements to such an extent that “many people would no longer recognise the schools as being selective”.
Datalab found that a child eligible for free school meals is less likely to attend a grammar school than another child who is not FSM-eligible, even if they have comparable key stage 2 results.
Speaking last year, Datalab director Becky Allen wrote that poorer children have “markedly lower attainment at age 11, for a number of reasons”, which was “an issue that needs addressing in its own right”.
“To have a dramatic impact on the number of poor children attending grammar schools, entry requirements for these children would need to be loosened to such an extent that many people would no longer recognise the schools as being selective,” Allen said.
The controversial grammar policy received renewed criticism at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) conference last week, where education secretary Justine Greening repeated the government’s assertion that selective schools improve social mobility.
Greening was heckled by ASCL members after she claimed that grammar schools closed the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils during a Q&A session.
During a panel debate at the conference, Allen pleaded with ministers to scrap their plans for new grammar schools.
“As a parent, as well as someone who cares about the education system, please do not put my children through an 11-plus,” she said, warning that the introduction of further selection risks “everything else getting swept to one side,” she said.