At the beginning of May, the education secretary, Damian Hinds announced that the government will be attempting to give parents a wider choice in finding the right school for their children by delegating funds to expanding grammar and faith schools.
With this, the Selective School Expansion Fund (SSEF) has been created, to allow existing selective schools to apply on the grounds that they prioritise admission to pupil premium children and create an outreach programme with local primary schools.
Growing Grammar Schools
So far, £50 million of the £200 million SSEF funding stream has been allocated to Grammar School expansions for 2018-19, whilst the remaining £150 million has yet to be assigned.
This funding originated from Theresa May’s desire to create a new generation of grammar schools that was originally put on hold after she lost her Commons majority in last year’s election.
Under this funding, schools that would like to apply must submit a fair access and partnership plan that explains their future commitment to increasing pupil premium numbers and their work with primary schools.
The need to increase pupil premium numbers originates from the idea that it will provide better opportunities and improve social mobility for disadvantaged children. With figures showing that around 2.6 per cent of grammar school pupils have free school meals in comparison to 14.1 per cent across all school types, the gap will hopefully begin to reduce.
New Plans for Faith Schools
Along with this funding, plans have also been made to delegate funding to set up new voluntary aided schools which will operate with local council involvement. Unlike faith schools that have a 50 per cent cap on the number of pupils that can be admitted based on religion, these new voluntary aided schools can have up to 100 per cent.
Both announcements have been met with some negativity and anger from various groups worried that these funding streams will not improve pupil’s social mobility or bridge the gap between rich and poor pupils.
One such response comes from Reverend Stephen Terry who explains how it’s “disappointing that the government wishes to exploit a loophole in its own policy” to help schools discriminate by faith.
The joint secretary of the NEU teacher’s union, Mary Bousted, stated that the money delegated to the expansion of grammar schools is an inappropriate use of public funds in a time “when schools across the country are having to reach down the back of the sofa for spare change”.
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