In a recent controversial government decision, £50 million is set to be channeled into grammar schools across the UK. While grammar schools initiated in the medieval times, currently, in England there are just over 160 schools that classify as grammar schools.
These selective state schools are considered more academic oriented institutions, compared to secondary modern schools. Grammar schools accept students according to academic criteria. The proposed funding is to be invested in grammar schools in order to supposedly create more space for additional students to be accepted, including an emphasis on disadvantaged students.
Only the schools that meet certain criteria will be eligible to receive the funds. While many new spaces have become available in grammar schools since 2010, the government wants to “make sure every family can access a good school,” stated Education Secretary Damian Hinds. “By creating new schools where they are needed most and helping all great schools to grow, we can give parents greater choice in looking at schools that are right for their family – and give children of all backgrounds access to a world-class education,” he added.
Yet critics of the proposal assert that expanding selective education schools is detrimental to less socio-economically privileged sectors of society. These critics claims that funding selective education hampers social mobility, and decry it as another elitist initiative benefiting the rich while harming the poorer citizens who lack similar resources. This policy, it is claimed, will only increase the gap between poor and rich.
In order to be accepted in the grammar school system children must sit for the eleven plus exam which determined eligibility for acceptance into the various schools. Parents often hire eleven plus exam tutors to help their child prepare for the test. The test is not the only criteria used to admit students, however, but used along with distance, siblings who attend, faith and other factors. Critics of the proposed funding claim it us unfair to direct much needed monies towards a school sector that is largely suitable only for families who have extra income to spend.
Statistics show that significantly less disadvantaged students attend grammar schools – around 2.5% of grammar school students receive free school meals compared to just over 14% at all schools.
Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: “School budgets are at breaking point. The state-funded school system is rapidly heading towards insolvency. To pursue such an elitist policy as expanding grammars at a time of crisis is a distraction at best. This money should be spent for the benefit of all children, not just the tiny number who attend grammar schools.”
Government critics claim the money would be better spent being invested in schools that serve a more diverse population and which are facing a funding crisis of their own.
According to the proposal, the funding is supposed to go into effect in September 2018 for the start of the next school year.