Published: 16:00, 13 September 2017
County education chiefs have rejected an accusation they have failed to act on a report suggesting ways of encouraging poorer brighter children to apply for a grammar school.
A report by a cross-party committee setting out a series of recommendations to address the issue of a lack of social mobility in Kent’s 33 grammar schools was published a year ago.
According to Conservative county councillor Andrew Bowles, who was on the committee, KCC has yet to implement fully any of the measures it proposed.
“We are coming close to a position where we will need to ask some hard questions,” he said.
Asked during an interview on KMTV’s “Paul On Politics” how many recommendations had, to his knowledge, been fully implemented, Cllr Bowles said: “None of them have been fully implemented yet and the committee will meet in due course and if they haven’t, we will be addressing the issue.”
But the claim that no progress had been made was rejected by the Conservative politician in charge of schools.
Cllr Roger Gough, cabinet member for education, said he did not recognise the claim and insisted progress on many of the recommendations was underway.
These included moves by several grammars to allocate places in their admissions arrangements to poorer brighter pupils based on measures such as free school meals and Pupil Premium money.
“The changes some grammars have made in admissions have been very helpful and it is the right thing to do. If schools do not have significant numbers of pupils from more modest backgrounds taking the test, we are not going to get very far.”
The council’s focus was on closing the gap between the achievements of poorer children and their peers.
“It is a long haul but there are a number of defined actions which we have taken and I would not accept that progress has not been made.”
He accepted that KCC could not implement one key recommendation on a scheme to help with transport costs as it would involve subsidising bus fares it to the tune of £500,000.
Figures for the number of children at Kent grammars on free school meals show that on average they have just 3% while the average for non-selective schools is 13%.
In its report, committee chairman Jenny Whittle said poorer children in Kent were at a “double disadvantage.”
“We believe that Kent County Council, primary and grammar schools have a moral responsibility to work together to ensure that the most academically able children from disadvantaged backgrounds access grammar schools in the same way other children do.”
Figures obtained by the KM Group in April showed more than 500 children from dozens of fee-paying independent schools have been offered places at Kent’s grammar schools this year.
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