Exclusive: New school funding formula could force grammar schools to ditch outreach work

Sutton Trust warns that a decline in primary outreach work would be 'highly damaging'

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The majority of grammars will be forced to abandon or curtail their work with disadvantaged primary pupils if the government’s school funding proposals go ahead, the Grammar School Heads’ Association (GSHA) has warned.

The organisation said selective schools would find it increasingly difficult to do outreach work aimed at encouraging primary school children to sit the 11-plus exam and helping them to pass the test.

This is despite plans – set out in a government Green Paper on expanding selection to boost social mobility – for grammars to take part in a range of outreach work to “raise aspirations, improve educational practice and promote wider access” in primary schools.

GSHA chief executive Jim Skinner said that many of the existing 163 grammar schools see primary outreach work as a vital tool for promoting social mobility, but will have to significantly reduce it if the government pushes forward with its national funding formula.

“To have the impact that we want it to have, [outreach work] needs to start earlier [than Years 4 and 5] and it needs to be more intensive,” Mr Skinner said. “We see it as probably the most important aspect for increasing social mobility.”

'Some schools have cut outreach'

But he warned: “The capacity to reach out to primary schools has been reduced [because of real-terms funding cuts]. Some schools have had to cut it all.

“And if the new formula goes through, then we are looking at two-thirds of grammar schools with less money. So it’s likely that the majority of grammar schools will have to cut back or abandon primary outreach programmes entirely.”

Lee Elliot Major, chief executive of social mobility charity the Sutton Trust, said a decline in primary outreach work would be “highly damaging” to social mobility in a selective school system.

He said: “At the moment, selective state schools are highly socially exclusive. They can improve this, but primary outreach is a fundamental part of that.”

Mr Elliot Major added that this could prove to be a “dent” to the government’s grammar school expansion plans. “Unless you can enable grammar schools to be more diverse socially, you shouldn’t consider expanding them,” he said.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We expect all schools to help children of all backgrounds fulfil their potential and where they create more places for disadvantaged pupils our funding formula will see their funding increase, as well as benefitting from the extra funding available from the pupil premium.”

This is an edited article from the 24 February edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. 

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