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Hundreds of Gloucester grammar school places taken by Cheltenham pupils

By Ben_Falconer  |  Posted: January 23, 2014

Hundreds of Gloucester grammar school places taken by Cheltenham pupils

Hundreds of grammar school places in Gloucester are taken by children from outside the city

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HUNDREDS of Gloucester grammar school places are being taken up by Cheltenham pupils, new figures reveal.

After Ofsted’s chief railed against the middle classes “stuffing” grammar schools, the numbers in Gloucestershire appear to bear this out, with only a tiny percentage of grammar pupils on free school meals and less than half of those at the city’s four selective schools coming from Gloucester.

“There was a time when Gloucester schools were for Gloucester children,” said Liberal Democrat councillor Jeremy Hilton at Gloucestershire County Council’s full meeting on Wednesday, January 22.

Today though, 559 children from Cheltenham attend one of Gloucester’s four selective schools, and only 151 go the other way from Gloucester to the spa town’s only grammar.

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Two of Gloucester’s grammars, the High School for Girls in Denmark Road and boys school Sir Thomas Rich’s get the majority of their pupils from outside the Gloucester City Council area.

Conservative cabinet member for children and young people, Paul McLain said Mr Hilton’s comments sounded like a case of “these are local shops for local people” but after the meeting admitted there was an issue.

“The alternative is to build more grammar schools,” he said. “The issue then for us as a society is more middle class parents are well aware of this and will be ambitious for their kids. But we have is make it an achievable dream for everyone.

“I’m not criticising anyone for being ambitious for their kids but it’s about parents talking to their primary schools and working to that goal.”

A new entrance exam which is said to be less easy to coach children for is coming in this year. It should mean parents who spend a few thousand pounds on entrance exam coaching to avoid tens of thousands on private school fees will find it less easy to secure a grammar place for their children.

Before Christmas Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said grammar schools are “stuffed full of middle-class kids. A tiny percentage are on free school meals - 3%. That is a nonsense.”

Mr Hilton said after the meeting that the majority of the city’s grammar school places should go to city children.

“When 15% of children in the postcode district GL1 get free school meals and just 1% at the High School for Girls and Sir Thomas Rich’s, it looks like children from modest backgrounds are being denied places at Gloucester grammar schools,” he said.

After the meeting the Conservatives claimed the Liberal Democrats needed to clarify their position on the matter or face accusations that they are trying to block children from Cheltenham and other parts of the county from attending Gloucester schools.

“Lib Dems have form for opposing parental choice, but I will never back educational apartheid in our county,” said Mr McLain.

John Pemberthy, divisional secretary of the Gloucestershire Association of the National Union of Teachers, said it’s natural for parents to want the best schools for their children - so all schools need to be of the same standard.

“For parents who want to send their children to what they perceive as a good school, it’s a decision they are prepared to take, and pay for the bus fares and get them up early,” he said.

“Some people on principle don’t do that and send their child to their local school - the union believes every local school should have the same resources to provide the same standard of education.”

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7 comments

  • Beekeeper  |  January 24 2014, 4:01PM

    They come over here ...

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  • Apothegm_  |  January 24 2014, 12:09PM

    I don't disagree with you - in fact equality of provision is a noble goal. My point was the sheer unlikelihood of its achievement - utopia vs. real life.

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  • IsitJimKerr  |  January 24 2014, 10:40AM

    Apothegm.......while the quote is from a union official, you can't escape the truth that he is right. It's like healthcare, it shouldn't matter where you live, to expect a certain level of excellence. However, what is hilarious, is the fact that to get equal schools, you need either equal teachers, or mobility of better and worse one, so as to 'even up' the schools. Now go and tell your 'members' that as they are obviously not all equal, they will have to be transferred to other schools. I can hear the lefties raring up now! But the main point about Cheltenham children filling OUR Gloucester schools also highlights the fact that Gloucester schools are far superior to Cheltenham ones with the exception of Pates. So while I abhor the Cheltenham vs. Gloucester slanging matches that go on, particularly on this site, this is one occasion that it certainly is true, that Gloucester is better than Cheltenham, 'cos it's there in black & white!

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  • RoadWombat  |  January 23 2014, 10:49PM

    Trust a lefty to bring up class!

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  • ThomasTallis  |  January 23 2014, 10:01PM

    It doesn't matter about geography. It is more a matter of socio-economic advantage/disadvantage, ie, middle class Gloucestrian/Cheltonian verses working class Gloucesrian/Cheltonian.

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  • Apothegm_  |  January 23 2014, 6:11PM

    "John Pemberthy, divisional secretary of the Gloucestershire Association of the National Union of Teachers, said [...] all schools need to be of the same standard." Observe the contrast between union utopia and real life.

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  • Mike_Smith_Gl  |  January 23 2014, 5:28PM

    Conservative cabinet member for children and young people, Paul McLain said Mr Hilton's comments sounded like a case of "these are local shops for local people" but after the meeting admitted there was an issue. "The alternative is to build more grammar schools," he said But, Mr McLain, your party has turned its back on grammar schools! UKIP is the only party that supports grammar schools, schools which allow pupils from all backgrounds to achieve their academic potential. Of course, it also supports good schools of all types so that ALL children can receive and education suited to their needs and abilities.

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