One of the first grammar schools to announce plans to bid for government funding to help it expand stands accused of paying "lip service" to rules aimed at promoting social mobility.
Kendrick School, an 11-18 selective girls’ school with academy status in Reading, Berkshire, announced last week that it intends to bid for money from the government’s £50 million Selective Schools Expansion Fund. It wants to grow the school by adding one entry form.
But a change.org petition has been launched after the school opened a consultation on its plans without stipulating what steps it intends to take to increase the number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The new funding pot, announced last month by education secretary Damian Hinds, is designed for "good" or "outstanding" fully or partially selective schools that want to expand on site or set up a new satellite site.
A key proviso is that applicants must include “ambitious and deliverable” proposals in their bid to increase access to disadvantaged pupils, defined as those eligible for the pupil premium.
Just 2.1 per cent of Kendrick School's pupils are currently eligible for the pupil premium.
'Demand for school places'
In its consultation, the school insists it is “well placed to help meet the increase in demand for school places in the Reading area and address the needs for greater social mobility".
The school changed its oversubscription policy a couple of years ago to give greater priority to children eligible for the pupil premium.
But its consultation includes no plans for any further changes. It states: “There is no requirement to change our current admissions policy….. We are already committed to, and will continue to, promote our admissions arrangements to reflect our aims to increase the number of disadvantaged students.”
The petition calls on the school "to set aside any new places resulting from their expansion bid for girls on [the] pupil premium".
The local parent behind the petition, James Coombs, said the school’s current efforts paid “lip service” to social mobility.
“If they are serious about social mobility, then the way this would work is to introduce a quota,” he said.
“This funding is specifically for grammar schools which have 'ambitious and realistic plans for increasing access for disadvantaged pupils'. The only way Kendrick can possibly achieve this is by setting aside the additional 32 places for disadvantaged girls.”
Asked what further measures the school intends to take, Kendrick's headteacher, Christine Kattirzi, declined to comment.
In a written statement, Ms Kattirzi said: “The government is determined that any expansion of grammar schools must address issues of social mobility and facilitate and support greater access to disadvantaged students in the local area.
"We are completely committed to this principle and our application will outline to government how we propose to do this.”