Kent opens inquiry into lack of poor pupils in grammar schools

The Council is the largest in the UK to retain a mainly selective school system, with 25 per cent of secondary school age pupils attending one of the 33 grammar schools in the area.

These grammar schools have faced criticism for their intake of poorer pupils, with just three per cent of grammar school pupils receiving free school meals, compared to 15 per cent in comprehensives.

The criticisms come after the Weald of Kent grammar school in Tonbridge was given permission to open a ‘annexe’ ten miles aways in Sevenoaks to take in approximately 450 students.

Conservative councillor Jenny Whittle, who is leading the inquiry, said: "We want to really focus on why such a low proportion of children on free school meals attend grammar schools and what can be done to cut down the barriers. If they are doing well, why are they not doing the test?

"I don't believe these children are incapable of attending grammar schools, I believe there are barriers. Is it the cost of uniforms, school trips, or transport?"

She added: "The essence of it is: we believe every child should be able to attend the school that's right for them, be it a comprehensive, a special school or a grammar school.”

Laws were passed in 1998 preventing the construction of new grammar schools, however the new ‘annexe’ in Sevenoaks was approved as a ‘expansion’, and has led to other grammar schools expressing an interest to do the same.

The expansion of Weald has been criticised by Shadow Secretary Lucy Powell, who argues that selective schools hinder social mobility. She said: "Nicky Morgan will rue the day she allowed the new grammar school in Kent. This decision has opened the floodgates and we are now seeing moves in many selective areas to open new grammar schools.

"All the evidence shows selective education is terrible for social mobility, with even Kent County Council admitting yesterday grammar schools fail disadvantaged children.

"The government should be focusing on ensuring an excellent education for all children, not just the few who get through the grammar school gates."

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