Exclusive: academy chains planning 'pupil premium grammar schools'

MATs consider the move in a bid to support government efforts to boost social mobility

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Academy chains are considering opening new grammar schools dedicated to disadvantaged children, which they believe will support government efforts to boost social mobility.

One influential academy chain – the Inspiration Trust, which has hosted talks with Department for Education officials – has floated the idea of a “pupil premium grammar school”, TES can reveal.

The selective school – aimed at those qualifying for the additional school funding for pupils from a disadvantaged background – would be in Norwich, one of the government’s 12 opportunity areas.

Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, which runs four schools and a sixth form in Norwich, said: “We shouldn’t shy away from exploring bold ideas. Would a pupil premium grammar school help improve social mobility in Norwich? Would reviving adult education for parents help them support their families? Would developing strong curriculum and professional development training to aid recruitment and retention of teachers have the biggest impact?”

She told TES that the Inspiration Trust had “always been in favour of new things”. She added: “Norwich has always been a radical city, so we shouldn’t rule out doing something new.”

TES is aware of at least one other multi-academy trust (MAT), which is not yet ready to go public with its plans, that is actively exploring setting up a pupil premium grammar.

The news comes after a Grammar Schools Heads’ Association newsletter, which summarised talks with ministers and officials, stated that the opportunity areas and other “social mobility cold spots” were “clearly [DfE] priorities for new selective schools”.

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said: “We know bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds thrive at grammar schools, which is why we have set out plans to end the ban on new grammars.

“We have also announced twelve opportunity areas across England, backed with a £72 million investment, where we are working to break down the barriers to social mobility that too many still face.”

This is an edited article from the 3 March edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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