Almost 700 pupils were admitted to grammar schools across the country at the start of the last academic year without having passed the 11-plus admission test, Tes can reveal
The number has been revealed through a freedom of information request carried out by anti-selection campaign group Comprehensive Future, which says the overall figure is likely to be higher as 59 out of the country's 163 grammar schools did not respond to the FOI.
Comprehensive Future chair Nuala Burgess said some grammar schools were “quite happy to be less selective when it suits them” and that many were "struggling to fill places".
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She said: “It puts any reputation for academic excellence into question if academic standards can be dropped the minute there is a financial incentive to do so.
Grammar school expansion
“Such tactics would suggest that the £200 million this government has designated to expanding selective schools is a sheer waste of money. Far from being over-subscribed, many grammar schools appear to struggle to fill their allocation.”
The FOI figures (based on the schools which responded) show that 693 pupils claimed selective places without a test pass following appeals, which is the equivalent to 4.6 grammar schools filling up in Year 7 without an 11-plus pass (based on an average published admission number of 150 a year.)
Jim Skinner, chair of the Grammar School Heads’ Association, said some grammar schools had admissions criteria which allowed pupil premium pupils to be admitted with scores below the standard pass mark.
He said the “vast majority” of grammar schools were “heavily oversubscribed” and not able to offer places to all the pupils who had passed their admissions tests.
However, he said: “In some areas, including Kent, there is a local review process which allows primary headteachers to put forward pupils who did not pass the test.”
According to the FOI, the highest number of admissions without a test pass was in Kent, where Comprehensive Future has highlighted concerns over plans to build a new satellite grammar school in the east of the county using cash from the government’s satellite expansion fund.
Jon Boyes, the principal of the non-selective academy Herne Bay High School, who is fighting the satellite grammar plans, told Tes that he had called in the regional schools’ commissioner to check figures forecasting a rise in grammar pupils produced by Kent County Council.
He said: “There is no capacity issue for grammar provision if grammar schools are already taking children who have not passed the 11-plus exam. Therefore, the funding really should be reserved for areas of the country where there is a true shortage of places.”
The FOI showed that a total of 147 grammar schools use a standard admissions test produced either by one of two assessment providers (GL and CEM). However a minority use “unbranded school-devised tests,” and the “super selective” grammars selected pupils based on highest rankings rather than a pass mark.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Admission authorities for grammar schools decide how they assess pupils who apply for a school place – the 11-plus exam is used by all grammar schools for pupils entering Year 7.
"Pupils who have moved to a grammar school outside of this period may be assessed through other means... We encourage all good schools to expand where there is a need for more places, and selective schools are some of the highest-performing in the country.”
Kent County Council has been contacted for comment.