The first wave of new grammar schools should be built in the poorest areas and those with the worst school results to kick-start social mobility, a report argues today.
This would help boost the life chances of children from deprived backgrounds, according to the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).
The think-tank also says the new generation of grammar schools – planned by Theresa May – should be required to ‘scout’ for academic potential among children from poor families who, it says, have the ‘odds heavily stacked against them’.
The report points out that children living in the most disadvantaged parts of the country are 27 times more likely to go to an inadequate school than ones living in the richest.
Grammars could help break this ‘unacceptable cycle of disadvantage’.
The report also says ministers should consider imposing quotas on new grammars so they must take a certain number of poor pupils.
It points to the example of King Edward VI Foundation schools in Birmingham, which reserve up to a quarter of places for children who receive free school meals.
The think-tank was set up by former Tory leader and work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and has close links with No 10. Its conclusions will be studied closely in Downing Street.
The report says: ‘It is high time that children from more deprived families were given the same educational opportunities as those from the wealthiest in society, and a well-designed selective system could do this.’
King Edward VI Foundation schools, which reserve up to a quarter of places for children who receive free school meals, have been highlighted for their efforts in a CSJ report
It points to figures exposing that selection ‘by house price’ exists in the top schools. The secondary schools with the best GCSE results last year commanded a house price ‘premium’ of £150,000 more than nearby locations.
For poor families this extra cost represents an ‘impenetrable barrier to good education’ for their children, the authors conclude.
The report also raises the idea of ‘grammar streams’ within existing schools so a proportion of children are chosen on the basis of academic ability.
And it says new grammars should avoid the old 11-plus system and find ‘fairer alternatives’ to selecting pupils from primary schools. Teachers prepared to work in poor areas could be paid more, it adds.
Andy Cook, chief executive of the CSJ, said: ‘No one would question the ambition of sports clubs to scout out the best talent in the country and make them into the next generation of star athletes.
‘The same unapologetic quest for latent potential should be applied to the academic talent in our country, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have the odds heavily stacked against them.’
By Jack Doyle
This article originally appeared in the Daily Mail.
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