Five state grammar schools in Birmingham run by the Schools of King Edward VI foundation have set a lower qualification score in their 11-plus tests for children entitled to the pupil premium – those who have been in receipt of free school meals during the past six years.
The decision has won support from the highly respected Sutton Trust education charity, which campaigns for equal access to education for all pupils.
Millionaire philanthropist Sir Peter Lampl, its chairman, told The Independent: “I applaud the King Edward’s Grammar Schools in their efforts to open up grammar schools.
The Sutton Trust believes that all grammar schools should give preference to children eligible for the pupil premium – and devote more effort into outreach work where they can persuade more pupils to enter for grammar school selection tests.
In addition, they can put on familiarisation sessions in primary schools to help prepare pupils for the 11-plus – thus putting them on a par with children from better off homes where their parents have hired private tutors to help prepare their children for the tests.
“Grammar schools educate one in 20 secondary pupils and they have an excellent record in getting their students into our best universities,” Sir Peter, who is also chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, added: “However, our research has found that state grammar schools take over four times as many pupils from private prep schools as children eligible for free school meals.
“It’s crucial that grammar schools are pen to bright children of all backgrounds if they are to play a stronger role in improving social mobility.”
The new two-tier system saw the percentage of children admitted who were eligible for the pupil premium go up to 20 per cent. Previously only 10 per cent of the schools’ pupils were eligible.
The Foundation said it had acted because of “genuine concern that the grammar schools have become increasingly populated by the middle class”.