Grammar Schools: Can they truly support ordinary working families?

This week Education Secretary Justine Greening urged the need for Grammar Schools, including the new raft of grammars included in Theresa May’s latest initiative, to do more to help “ordinary working families.”

In a speech today Greening will say that she is keen to have selective education benefit households with incomes up to £33,000.

With places in selective schools increasingly going to children from more affluent families the question is as to whether this is in any way feasible is up for grabs.

Certainly the argument coming in hard and fast from critics on the left is that the Government have chosen to favour better off families as statistics, indeed from data produced by the government’s own analysis, show that more than 50% of students at grammar schools are from families with above average incomes and only a third are from typical working class families.

The government’s definition of an ‘ordinary working family’ is cause of some contention too. According to a recently published hefty consultation document, the above group is not children who are in care or whose parents are on benefits but rather those who live in households where one or more adults are working but the combined income is less than the national median (between £20,000 — £33,000).

Indeed grammar schools at present only admit 3% of students eligible for free school meals so how, argues Fiona Millar in the Guardian, they might be a keystone for social mobility is out of the question.

Yet Greening has made clear that she’s in agreement: the current middle class family grip on selective school places ‘was a case for not keeping the status quo’ although as of yet she’s declined to comment the measures being taken to action change.

So there’s space for Greening to address the governments critics and we shall await with somewhat baited breath.

Yet there is certainly a case for tiering students by ability in education and in such a way schools can achieve very well by their students. What the contention comes down to is whether or not each child is getting an equal ground from which to be best placed to achieve their full potential. The 11-plus can work very well as a streaming device as long as all are coming at it from the same start line.

In many ways we feel that BYT can be part of bridging the gap. Yes we’re not for rocket pressurised tutoring but our 11 plus offering can help children be academically confident and prepared to do their best and our pricing is designed to be working family friendly- our tuition in centres works out at around £13 per hour versus the £50 plus for private. We also take childcare vouchers and tax credits.

It’s a joint effort and one we are determined to be a part of. If there’s anything that all can agree on it’s that any child, whatever their background, should have an equal opportunity to reach their full potential both academically and in life beyond.

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