YOUNG people from Gloucester’s poorest families are up to 10 times less likely to attend the city’s grammar schools than wealthier pupils.
Children from families entitled to free school meals are far less likely to attend the county’s selective schools.
While 15 per cent of children living in the city (GL1 postcode) are entitled to free school meals – 327 pupils – only 1.5 per cent of the girls attending Gloucester’s High School for Girls qualify for free school meals. At Sir Thomas Rich’s School, that figure is 1.2 per cent.
Youth worker and mentor Delroy Ellis, who runs the Increase the Peace youth centre in Tredworth, said many young people he meets feel they won’t “fit in” at grammar schools.
“It’s about boosting self confidence. I work in schools as a mentor and some kids have no aspirations,” he said.
“For many children, they haven’t got the structure or home environment to help them achieve.
“Schools are doing their bit but you’ve got to have the reinforcement from home.”
One Gloucester mum, who asked to remain anonymous, said her son is in Year 5 and receives free school meals after she lost her job.
She said: “It seems really unfair. We’re lucky that my son’s school is a good school and some people do go to grammar schools. But a lot of his friends won’t bother to try because their parents don’t care or think it’s not worth trying. It does seem elitist.”
The mum of a Year 7 pupil at High School for Girls said: “I’m surprised by how far some of her friends travel to get to school. It does seem like there are not many from central Gloucester.”
Across Gloucestershire, around seven per cent of the county’s children are eligible for free school meals, but the figures vary wildly. Half of all pupils at Finlay Community Primary in Gloucester are entitled to free school meals, and 42 per cent at Tredworth Junior School. For families living in GL2 postcode, 8.1 per cent, or 296 children, are eligible for free school meals, in GL3 9.3 per cent (190 children) and GL4 12.9 per cent (438 children).
County councillor Sarah Lunnon, who represents Stroud, said: “The negligible number of children receiving free school meals at the grammar schools demonstrates that they do nothing to help our disadvantaged children.”
The county’s seven grammar schools will be using a new entrance test which means parents who pay for private tuition won’t be able to give their children advantage.
Cindi Pryde, interim headteacher at Stroud High School, said: “The feeling tutoring is required to pass the test is a factor in whether poorer families decide to put their daughters in for the test.”
Jon Standen, headteacher at The Crypt School, said that while boys travel from a wide catchment area including the Forest of Dean, Cheltenham and Swindon, most of its students are from Gloucester.
He said: “I think we are still true to the social mobility agenda we were founded on, to provide an education for working class lads.”
Jennie Varley, vice chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association and a governor at Marling School, said: “We are lucky to have the grammar schools here. They give everyone the chance to choose a school according to their needs.”
Amanda Chong, headteacher at Ribston Hall School and Matthew Morgan, headteacher at Sir Thomas Rich’s School, declined to comment and referred the Citizen to John Standen at The Crypt.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, said last month: “Grammar schools are stuffed full of middle-class kids. A tiny percentage are on free school meals – three per cent. That is a nonsense.
“Anyone who thinks grammar schools are going to increase social mobility needs to look at those figures. I don’t think they work.”