Government launches £50m grammar schools fund

11 May 18

The government has launched a £50m fund to boost the number of places available at academically selective grammar schools.

The Selective Schools Expansion Fund will allow grammars schools to expand their premises, offering places to disadvantaged pupils.

In return for a share of the funding, grammars will to submit a ‘fair access and partnership plan’, setting out the action they will take to increase the admission of disadvantaged pupils.

A Memorandum of Understanding agreed with the Grammar School Heads Association has also been unveiled, committing the sector to widening access and working with other local schools to raise standards for all children.

Education secretary Damian Hinds said the government wanted to ensure every family has access to a good school.

“By creating new schools where they are needed most and helping all great schools to grow, we can give parents greater choice in looking at schools that are right for their family – and give children of all backgrounds access to a world-class education,” he said.

Jim Skinner, chief executive of the Grammar School Heads’ Association, said: “We are very pleased that, like other good and outstanding schools, selective schools now have access to a fund to allow them to expand their premises.

“This is particularly important at a time when there are increasing numbers of pupils reaching secondary age and such high demand from parents for selective school places.”

However, there was a hostile response from teaching unions who said there was no evidence to suggest attendance at grammar school boosts attainment, while disadvantaged those who fail the 11 Plus entrance exam.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “In the face of such overwhelming evidence, it therefore beggars belief that the government has announced it will plough £50m to expand the number of places at existing selective grammar schools. 

“Schools up and down the country are desperately short of funds. This is money that would be better invested in ensuring all schools could provide for the basic needs of their pupils without having to ask for money from parents.”      

Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust, said it was right that an expansion in grammar school places was matched by an increase in the number of disadvantaged pupils.

“Existing grammars should be expected to do more to support social mobility,” he said, adding that all disadvantaged pupils who meet the minimum test score should be admitted by right.

The grammar school places announcement came as part of a wider package of measures to expand choice in education and raise attainment levels.

This included invitations for a fresh wave of free school applications and changes to the admission rules for faith schools, allowing them to offer all places on a faith basis.

However, any that do so will be expected to play an active role in the local community, perhaps twinning with other schools and ensuring a diverse governing board.

Universities and independent schools are also being encouraged to work with state schools to help improve pupil attainment.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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