Grammar schools benefit disadvantaged kids says think tank

Ripon Girls’ High School prides itself on educating a higher percentage of disadvantaged pupils than most grammar schools.

That is despite a new report that claims selective schools benefit underprivileged students.

Jenn Plews, the school’s head, and CEO of the Northern Star Academies Trust that runs it, says she wants to expand but would not try to open at a new site.

“I’m not in favour of expanding in terms of setting up new grammar schools,” she said.

“I’m in favour of bottling the best stuff that works within grammar schools and using that to develop the provision in all types of schools.”

Her comments come in the wake of a paper published by the Higher Education Policy Institute think tank calling for faster expansion of grammar schools on new sites which it claims would get more pupils into elite universities.

Written by self-styled “conservative activist” Iain Mansfield, the report says more government money should be provided to create new grammar school sites in disadvantaged areas.

Mr Mansfield claims grammar schools are more diverse than is realised, saying 45% of their pupils are from households with below median income.

He quotes research showing 39% of pupils in areas with grammar schools go from state schools to elite universities compared with 23% in comprehensive school areas.

Jonathan Dando from education charity Teach First told Sky News that grammar school provision should not be increased.

“We don’t think it’s right that we create winners and losers at the age of 11,” he said.

“We need to ensure we are giving all children a fair chance.”

The government announced a £200m expansion fund for grammar schools last year and awarded grants to 16 schools, mostly in Conservative constituencies in the south and the midlands.

Prior to the last general election the government was committed to allow new selective schools to be created in England, but the plans were subsequently scrapped and a ban on new grammar schools remains in place.

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