Grammar schools to demonstrate how they will improve the ‘social mix’ – Friday 11 November 2016

This week I report on the Schools Minister evidence to MPs in the Education Select Committee regarding grammar schools, the publication of the Sutton Trust’s report on the poor performance of white working class British boys and the IPPR’s report recommending the replacement of lower level apprenticeships with a pre-apprenticeship programme for 16-18 year olds.

Grammar schools to demonstrate how they’ll improve the ‘social mix’
This week Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, was called to give evidence to the MPs in the Education Select Committee as part of the scrutiny process for the Government’s consultation on re-introducing grammar schools.

Mr Gibb stated that strict conditions would be implemented to increase the number of pupils from poor backgrounds in selective schools and that they would also apply to new and existing grammar schools. He said “Under our proposals, existing grammar schools and new grammar schools would only be allowed to open if they met strict conditions designed to ensure increased numbers of less well-off pupils have access to selective education.” The Minister added that new grammar schools and those looking to expand would have to demonstrate how they would “improve the social mix”.

Poor performance of white working-class British boys
The Sutton Trust, the leading social mobility charity, has urged schools to implement targeted attainment improvement programmes for disadvantaged white British pupils.

Their latest report Class Differences: ethnicity and disadvantage found that white British boys eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) have now been either the lowest or second lowest performing ethnic group every year for a decade. The Trust also found the attainment gap between FSM and non-FSM white British boys to be the second highest at 32 percentage points, with Irish boys in the lead displaying a 46 percentage points difference.

Apprenticeships ‘must address distinct needs of teens’
Yesterday the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published a report recommending that the Government replaces lower level apprenticeships with a new, distinct pre-apprenticeship programme for 16–18-year-olds. Its report comes as universities have been awarded £4.5m to develop 5,200 degree level apprenticeships from September next year.

The report suggests level-two apprenticeships for younger learners “are often very job specific, do not include much off the job training, and from next year they will not be required to include a recognised qualification”. Instead the IPPR believes a pre-apprenticeship programme should be designed to “address explicitly the distinct needs of younger learners”, with more “off the job training” and general education.