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Grammar schools 'must actively target pupils from poorer backgrounds'

07/12/2016 Joanna

New grammar schools that are opening as part of current government plans must actively target children from poorer backgrounds in order to improve social mobility.

This is according to a new report from the Centre for Social Justice thinktank, which has recommended that the next generation of grammar schools should be required to scout for academic talent among poor children, in the same way that sports clubs seek out the best players from across the country.

Currently, there are 163 grammar schools operating across the UK, with GCSE exam results generally much better among pupils at these schools than those achieved at comprehensives - although it was noted that much of this gap can be explained by prior attainment at primary level.

Nevertheless, children from low-income families who are eligible for free school meals are shown to perform much better in these settings, with the attainment gap between these students and their better-off peers falling to only four per cent, compared with the 25 per cent gap recorded among comprehensive students.

However, at the moment, free school meal pupils occupy only three per cent of grammar school places, compared with 18 per cent of places at other state schools that have retained selective education.

In order to ensure that children who could benefit from attending grammar schools are able to do so, the report suggested establishing quotas for children from disadvantaged families, among other measures.

Andy Cook, chief executive of the CSJ, said: "A child living in one of England's most disadvantaged areas is 27 times more likely to go to an inadequate school than a child living in one of the most prosperous. This unacceptable cycle of disadvantage must be broken.

"Brand new grammar schools in areas where education attainment is at rock bottom would be a much-needed step forward in creating an educational system that has social mobility as one of its key objectives."

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