A Select Committee made up of nine cross-party Kent County Council Members is putting forward 16 recommendations to help improve social mobility by ensuring access for children from all financial backgrounds to grammar schools in Kent.
The report has been put together after extensive research including interviews with headteachers of both grammar and primary schools, parents, children in care and their foster carers, education experts from Kent and around the country.
The group is being led by Kent County Councillor Jenny Whittle who said: “The remit of this Committee focuses on what can be done to improve the representation of children from disadvantaged backgrounds in grammar schools so that they too can benefit from a selective education if it is appropriate for them.
“That just 57% of high ability children in receipt of Pupil Premium in Kent attend a grammar school, compared to 79% of similar ability children not eligible for Pupil Premium, highlights that concerted action needs to be taken to ensure that more academically able children from poorer backgrounds have the same access to selective education as their more affluent peers.
“Our research has found that strong partnerships between schools and parents, and between primary and secondary schools – and in the context of this Committee’s report, grammar schools – are essential to ensure that bright children from poorer backgrounds are identified early to apply to take the Kent Test and be properly supported through the process, including at the appeals stage.
“The educational landscape is changing rapidly with increasing numbers of schools becoming academies. As such, the recommendations from this report are just that – none of them can be imposed on schools.
“We believe, however, that KCC, primary and grammar schools have a moral responsibility to work together to support the most academically able children from disadvantaged backgrounds to access grammar schools.
“We saw evidence of excellent partnership working between primary and grammar schools, and grammar and high schools to support the most academically able pupils from poorer backgrounds.
“We would like to see this approach being consistently applied across the county, so that no child is denied an education that is best suited for their talents and abilities.”
Matthew Bartlett, Headteacher of Dover Grammar School for Girls provided information for the report, he said: “This report challenges us all to continue to keep open and to open yet wider, the doors to a grammar school education for all our young people.
“Grammar school heads will not rest until there is absolute parity of opportunity for all young people regardless of their social and economic background.
“The report is both a challenge and a timely reminder of the ongoing importance of that task. As a grammar school Head working daily to ensure social mobility is more than just a slogan but a conspicuous reality, I welcome unreservedly the report and its recommendations.’
The improvement of social mobility is a priority for the County Council.
Lack of social mobility is damaging for the country’s economic growth and wealth creation, and represents a waste of talent which the country cannot afford.
For individual children and young people who live in poor and disadvantaged circumstances, the lack of sufficient opportunity to make good progress in the education system, to have greater fluidity in the pathways that they can take and to have the chance to become more upwardly mobile, is a double disadvantage.
One of the biggest challenges for the education system, selective and non-selective, is to change this.
The full report is available on the Kent County County website: https://democracy.kent.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=860&MId=6374&Ver=4