Exclusive: Grammar schools' ‘insult’ to teachers as sixth-formers coach 11+

Grammar schools criticised for using sixth-formers to coach disadvantaged primary pupils through 11 plus as part of bids to receive government expansion money

sixth formers in primary schools

Grammar school outreach programmes using sixth-formers to coach disadvantaged Year 6 pupils through their admission tests have been branded as insulting to teachers.

Almost all of the 16 grammar schools that won bids from the government’s £50 million grammar school expansion fund said they used sixth-formers in their outreach programmes to help disadvantaged pupils in primary schools.

A condition of being awarded the money was that schools showed “deliverable and achievable plans” on how they would increase numbers of disadvantaged pupils.

Documents released by the DfE show 15 of the 16 schools are using sixth formers to help primary pupils with numeracy and literacy and in some cases to help with “test familiarisation.”

But Dr Nuala Burgess, chair of the anti-selection campaign group Comprehensive Future, said the practice “made her hair stand on end” and that it was “extraordinary.”

She said: “I’m a qualified secondary school teacher and even I couldn’t go and work in a primary school. Primary teaching is a highly-skilled job - you have to be able to understand children’s needs and cognitive skills.

“The idea that these programmes pass as properly-thought-out outreach work is an insult to primary school teachers.

“I’m not saying it’s not a lovely idea – and I wouldn’t for a minute think the sixth formers wouldn’t have the best intentions - but don’t kid yourself that they’re equipped to teach primary school pupils. The TA’s would be better equipped.

“And no matter how good these sixth formers are they will not be a patch on the private tutors that the middle classes can afford.”

Jim Skinner, chair of the Grammar School Headteachers' Association, said: “Many schools, of all types, run a range of programmes where sixth form students work with primary pupils and indeed younger secondary school pupils at their own and neighbouring schools.

"Such schemes can cover a wide range of areas including numeracy and literacy support, as well as mentoring. The content of these programmes is determined by experienced teachers who closely monitor and evaluate the delivery.

"Younger pupils respond very positively to working with sixth form students and it can make a valuable contribution to their broader education.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said it was matter for the schools themselves. He said: “I’m sure they’ll be perfectly able to explain why allowing sixth form pupils from their schools to do outreach work and help their younger peers is a positive thing for all involved.”

Bidding opened yesterday for the second round of the DfE's £200m selective schools expansion fund.


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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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