Bright pupils living outside Birmingham would not be able to attend grammar schools in the city if catchment areas are changed to allow children living in ‘less well-heeled’ areas of Birmingham to gain places, says the Daily Mail.
It appears it’s a novel idea to allow children living nearer a school to be prioritised over those living further away. But this, among other complaints, has resulted in 3000 people signing a petition opposing plans by the King Edward VI Academy Trust Birmingham to encourage more disadvantaged children to attend its six selective schools.
The King Edward VI Academy Trust Birmingham has eight schools: six selective and two non-selective. As might be expected, the two non-selective schools, King Edward VI Sheldon Heath and King Edward VI Handsworth Wood, had a much higher proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) at the time of this year’s school census (24.9%) than the trust’s selective schools (average 8.25%).
There is already a 20% quota in place for pupils who have been eligible for FSM at any time in the previous six years (FSM6) at the trust's selective schools, the Mail writes. There are plans to raise this to 25% (see below).
Parents fear reducing the score for FSM6 pupils would lower academic standards. But, as the proposed changes make clear (see below), non-FSM children achieving the lower qualifying score of 205 would also be able to attend if places aren’t filled. And there’s no guarantee that the 20% quota for lower-scoring FSM6 children would ever be filled. This would leave more places for non-FSM children both high- and low-scoring.
It appears filling empty places with lower-scoring ‘middle-class’ applicants is perceived as less of a threat to ‘standards’ than reserving a minority of places to lower-scoring, poorer children.
The proposed changes, which are out for consultation, would give priority to looked after children who achieve the qualifying score of 205. Prioritising such children is required by law.
The second category would be children who have qualified for FSM at any time in the previous six years (FSM6). They must live in the catchment area of one of the selective schools and score 205. These would be ranked by distance from the school.
If 25% of the school’s Pupil Admission Number is not reached, then priority would be given to FSM6 children outside catchment who achieve 205 or more. These would be ranked by score and distance. No offers would be made for pupils in this category if the 25% quota had already been reached.
Once the 25% quota is filled, the remaining 75% of places would be allocated as follows: