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Children from Gloucester's poorest families are 10 times less likely to attend grammar schools than wealthier pupils

By The Citizen  |  Posted: January 13, 2014

Children from Gloucester's poorest families are 10 times less likely to attend grammar schools than wealthier pupils

Poorer children are less likely to attend Gloucester grammar schools

Comments (29)

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.”

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29 comments

  • clairey2010  |  June 12 2014, 10:46AM

    Could it be that people from more well off backgrounds encourage their children and take their education more seriously than others and insist on homework being done? For information, out of date information on here. As of September there is a new-style exam which is massively more difficult than the old Verbal Reasoning tests - I consider myself not entirely stupid, but even as an adult, I have struggled with some of it. It is now four different papers; non-verbal reasoning (anticipation of patterns of shapes), verbal reasoning codes, similes etc, English (grammar, comprehension, punctuation, spelling, insert the missing words into the paragraph and finally maths (fractions, algebra, problem solving, times tables, etc). I fail to see how anyone can be tutored for all that. Only children who have worked hard at school, have involved parents or with more academic ability will pass. These are all curriculum subjects taught to every child. If the child hasn't been taught it, blame the schools and don't just leave everything to the school . I'm fed up with people moaning about everything being difficult for poor people. I can't afford a tutor, but for the last year have been giving my daughter extra work from the pitiful amount provided by her school. This is what parents should be doing. Will it be enough? I'm not sure, but if she doesn't pass, then at least we know we tried our best. Grammar schools are there to catch the above-described children not a social engineering exercise. If the test is too tough, then the child will not thrive in such an academic environment and they would therefore be in the wrong school. Nothing to do with money. As for feeling intimated at parents evenings. Really? Grow up and set a good example to your child - you can easily be as good as anyone else, regardless of whether they have ponies or not.

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  • The_Selector  |  January 15 2014, 11:53AM

    "A grammar school education is there for the taking if you want it and pass the entry exam". Yes, which is far more likely to be achieved by those from certain backgrounds = elitist. Dress it up however you like, but it's there for all to see.

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  • foamcow  |  January 14 2014, 10:45AM

    That's a fair point about the open evenings being all "I've got a horse" etc. But this isn't a barrier. There's nothing stopping you getting a place. It's the ridiculous "class" attitude that's the problem. Anyone has as much right as anyone else to go to a grammar school. The attitudes of some folk remind of the Frost Report sketch "I look down on him and up to him. I know my place". Stop thinking of yourself as working class and "posh" people being middle or upper class. It's makes not a jot of difference. So don't be intimidated, stick 2 fingers up and go for it. A grammar school education is there for the taking if you want it and pass the entry exam.

  • Tree1974  |  January 14 2014, 6:25AM

    I think it is fantastic that we have grammar Schools in Gloucester. I do beleive that the entry exam is out dated and unfair though and that perhaps a child's future should be decided by their prior attainment at primary. My daughter sat the test and missed it by 4 points, I can't help thinking that had I been able to afford tutoring she would have passed (for Kay Powell's information,I didn't spend the money on fags and alcohol but rather my mortgage and getting to work each day). One thing I did observe was that the majority of girls and their families at the open days and on test day were extreemly 'I've got a horse and Daddy's got a Porshe', I went to independent schools and would class myself as very middle class however even I felt out of place, not particularly welcome and slightly intimidated. These days the grammar schools really seem to be the domain of the better off, I am actually rather glad my daughter didn't go. We are lucky enough to have a single sex school that is not academically selective. It does have its problems but my girl is really thriving and in ways I don't think would have happened at the grammar.

  • QuedResi2014  |  January 13 2014, 7:48PM

    To add to one of the responses I received , I wasn't one of the few "lucky ones" or the "exception to the rule". Many of my classmates were in very similar family situations to myself, and there were many who were a lot poorer! Were there a few girls whose social class and wealth would have been seen as better than mine? Undoubtedly! I think you'll find a mix of social class/wealth in comprehensives too… What we all had in common is that we, or at the very least our parents, took a real interest in our education. Yes some fellow classmates were coached by parents able to afford the tutoring, but they were the minority and it was obvious who they were on day one. Most of them did not benefit from being in a grammar the way everyone else did. Ultimately as I said, it is about ensuring the best fit for each child, and for some children, grammar school is the best option. I think it is the comprehensive system we should be looking at. If it's not working, let's fix it, either by further streaming, or by providing comprehensives with more support to deal with disruptive pupils. Maybe even both? Or none of the above and something else? Lastly, there needs to be more of a hands on, interested approach by some of the parents, who has others have rightly pointed out, don't feel the responsibility of their child's education. They are failing their child more than any school ever could.

  • foamcow  |  January 13 2014, 6:44PM

    "so they rig the rules and procedures to favour certain socio-economic groups" How? Anyone can sit an entrance exam and if they attain a high enough score, be offered a place. All you have to do is contact the LEA and put your child's name down - just like you have to do when selecting which schools you want your child to attend. It's not hard and it's not a barrier to any socio-economic group. The procedures are: 1) Say you want to sit the test. 2) Sit the test. 3) All tests are independently marked and results given to all schools to which you applied. 4) If you pass with a high enough score, you're offered a place which you can accept or decline. 5) If you don't pass then you may appeal and present a case to an independent panel as to why you should have a place. Where is there any room in that procedure for any kind of "rigging"? Governors, teachers and parents have no control over this. The tests are standardised. The only thing each school applies is its own scoring (not marking, correct is correct, incorrect is incorrect) and, I think, age weighting, scheme (to take into account children born at different points of the school year. In addition, it's possible to appeal against the result. Appeals are conducted by independent arbiters with no affiliation to the schools concerned. If they feel your child deserves a place at a particular school, the school must provide one. You do have a point about tutoring though. This is something I strongly disagree with and *is* a barrier to the less well-off. However, a bright child does not need tutoring beyond being familiarised with the test paper style which is something anyone can do and doesn't require paying tutors. And to be fair, if someone really needs tutoring to pass the test then they are going to find it very hard to do well at the school. Grammar schools aren't "posh". They're just selective. As such they develop a reputation for turning out students with good exam results. That is how they help social mobility. There is no reason whatsoever why any child of suitable ability can attend and do well at a grammar school and thus give themselves a better chance when they come out the the other end. There is definitely a problem but I feel it's one of perception rather than actual fact. Is it easier to blame some Machiavellian scheme and be one of the down-trodden poor working class with the whole world against them? Perhaps. All it takes is some effort and academic ability.

  • Richardburton  |  January 13 2014, 6:31PM

    People want us to think that going to a grammer school is earned,most of the puplis going to these schools have been coached from the middle of primary school. Going to a Grammer school has nothing to do with intelligence more who your parents are! Delroy i hope in the course of your work you are helping them to attain the best they can do and challenge their notions , because nothing will changed until our children start beliveing in themselves. All Grammer schools has Special Education needs deptment. what do these grammer schools push out in the end do they all end up in high power job ... No they don't . Most of the brighest aren't picked up by testing as a test is only about the way you think and unless you think like them they don't have the brains to figure it out!. Our son went to Tredworth infants and Junior school then went on to Oxstalls school. He has always worked has just come back from another cruise ,buying his own house ,has his own new car and has just gained a First with Honours in Electrical Engennering while working full time and he works for a company that he has had to sigh the Offical Secrets act... Proud is a understatement and he was refused a place at Crypt school years ago! .... We lived in White city at the time ,had a low paid job (Our son wanted to try to get in to Crypt) I didn't as i knew he didn't stand a chance! Grammer schools haven't helped to get the low income brightest puplis ,it's easier to get the 'practiced' then the ones with intelligence!

  • uk_socrates  |  January 13 2014, 6:28PM

    Fantastic points by @Kay Powell. Well done @Bobby95 getting into Oxford. Its good to come across the occasional success story.

  • Kay_Powell  |  January 13 2014, 6:24PM

    Griffin6, it's less about poverty and more about whether or not the parents value education. Through a friend I know of lots of families in the Barton area of Gloucester where the parents are immigrants )mainly from Asia) and don't have a lot of money, but they scrape together enough to have their children tutored so that they can pass the exam to get into grammar school. Whereas poorer parents of British extraction tend to spend any spare money on alcohol, cigarettes and the latest smart phone.

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  • uk_socrates  |  January 13 2014, 6:22PM

    @The_Selector, so you would close some of the best grammar schools in the country?

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