Grammar Schools set out admission policies (and in Aylesbury at least, free school meals are more important than where you live)

Education news
Education news

All 13 Bucks grammar schools – which are now academies – have unveiled proposed 2014 admissions policies on their websites,

The consultation comes as officials in Kent, which also operates a grammar system, announced they were looking at ways to mitigate the effect of wealthier parents hiring tutors to help children pass their 11-plus.

Their proposal would see the exam become more based on classroom topics, with harder questions that are less formulaic.

Aylesbury Grammar and the Sir Henry Floyd’s draft admissions policy for 2014 says that when places are over-subscribed, priority will be given to boys who are eligible for free school meals over those who have siblings at the school or live in the catchment area. This differs from, for example, Chesham Grammar School where much more emphasis is placed on the catchment area ahead of children with ‘exceptional social need’.

Aylesbury High School’s policy was not available at the time of press.

Philip Wayne, the headmaster of Chesham Grammar School, who is speaking on behalf of all Bucks grammar schools, declined an interview but said in a statement: “All thirteen Grammar Schools, which are now independent admission authorities, are working together with Buckinghamshire County Council and primary schools to maintain consistency across the county in the selection process.”

He said more details would be announced at a press conference in January.

Mike Appleyard, Bucks County Council’s cabinet member for education said : “We are continuing to work in partnership with the grammar academies on the development of the selective process.

“There is a continued commitment by all partners to ensuring that the admissions system within Buckinghamshire remains cohesive and that, crucially, it puts the child at the centre of the process.

“Systems remain in place to ensure that information is communicated to parents in a timely fashion and more detail will be forthcoming in January.”

In 2010 a Buckinghamshire parent asked the school’s adjudicator to look into whether the county’s grammar school admission system is unfair – claiming children whose parents can afford tutors get an advantage.

The adjudicator ruled that there were ‘unfair elements’ and these were ‘inevitable and unavoidable’.

When asked about the 11-plus changes being considered in Kent, Bucks County Council’s shadow education spokesman Niknam Hussain said: “I will be watching this with interest to see if it works, and to see what the results are.

“There is ample evidence from educational psychologists that coaching affects results, although we are not sure by how much.

“If voters want a selective system then we have to make sure it is as fair as possible.

“In the 1960s and 1970s the grammar school intake was fairly reflective of the local community, now it is not. The bias now is towards parents who are professional and have a lot of money.

“I put that down to them being able to afford to pay for coaching for the test.”