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Grammars backlash in Theresa May's backyard

Campaigners fear the expansion of nearby grammars will draw bright pupils away from comprehensives in Maidenhead

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Campaigners fear the expansion of nearby grammars will draw bright pupils away from comprehensives in Maidenhead

Anti-selection campaigners in prime minister Theresa May’s backyard are battling the expansion of two neighbouring grammar schools, amid fears that the plans will draw bright pupils away from local comprehensives.

Grassroots campaigns are ramping up as grammar schools are announcing expansion plans ahead of a deadline to submit bids to a new £50 million government fund.

While the prime minister is pushing for more grammar school places, her Maidenhead constituency falls under the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, which is fully comprehensive.

But campaigners say expansion plans in nearby areas will impact on local schools.

Two grammar schools in neighbouring local authorities are planning to expand: Kendrick School, a girls' grammar school in Reading, and John Hampden Grammar School, in High Wycombe.

'Taking bright pupils away'

Jo Smith, one of the organisers of Excellent Education for Everyone, a campaign group formed by residents in the borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, says these expansion plans risk the loss of a critical mass of bright pupils from the area.

Local children are already being bussed in to grammar schools in Buckinghamshire, Reading and Slough.

Ms Smith said: “It does concern us because it draws some of the brightest pupils away from our comprehensive schools. Our schools are brilliant schools, but if you allow for more of the high-achieving children to go away then you are effectively left with a secondary modern, which can create a negative mindset about the schools.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said expansion plans are “destabilising” both local schools but also  those in nearby non-selective areas who fear losing more bright pupils, and funding.  

"This is because as they lose students from their school, thus the funding that comes with each student will go, and therefore you will have a spiralling downwards of what those schools can provide. And of  course those parents who don’t get their child into the grammar school will then  think the school I was perfectly happy with previously  is now somehow second rate.”

He added: “Social mobility is at the heart of it and of course we know there is no evidence at all that increasing selection will actually raise standards for the most disadvantaged children.”

"Good" or "outstanding" selective schools that wish to draw on the new expansion fund have until 19 July to submit their plans, which must be subject to a minimum four-week consultation period.

Excellent Education for Everyone plans to submit formal objections.

Kendrick School and James Hampden Grammar School have both been contacted for comment.

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