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Funding for grammar schools in Southend

Volume 594: debated on Tuesday 24 March 2015

The Petition of grammar school pupils and their families in Southend,

Declares that the Petitioners are concerned that the outstanding grammar schools in Southend are facing an urgent funding crisis, as their two and three year budget forecasts show that they cannot cover the costs of all of their lessons; further that the Petitioners believe that many successful schools across the country, including the grammar schools in Southend, have long accepted a lower rate of funding while other secondary schools in the same area receive 50% more per pupil per year; further that the Petitioners are concerned that the local Schools’ Funding Forum cannot close this gap and that successful schools such as the grammar schools in Southend are facing the worst cuts; further that the Petitioners recognise the fact that their schools have reduced staffing to the minimum, have stopped replacing equipment, while at the same time increasing class sizes and reducing the number of subjects taught; and lastly that the Petitioners believe that there is nothing left to cut.

The Petitioners therefore urge the House of Commons to request that the Department for Education addresses the funding discrepancy between grammar schools and other secondary schools to ensure that the funding system does not discriminate against some of the best performing schools in the country and some of the most ambitious pupils who wish to take up extra subjects.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Sir David Amess, Official Report, March 2015; Vol. 594, c. 509.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Education:

We recognise the important role that grammar schools play in the state education system. Last year, all pupils at Southend High School for Girls and Westcliff High School for Boys gained at least 5 GCSEs at A* to C, and 99% of pupils at Southend High School for Boys and Westcliff High School for Girls achieved these grades.

The petitioners are correct that grammar schools can often receive a lower level of funding than other schools in the same area. This is largely because grammar schools are less likely than non-selective schools to be eligible for funding allocated on the basis of low prior attainment and deprivation.

We believe it is right that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those with low prior attainment, should attract more funding. The evidence is very clear that economic disadvantage remains strongly associated with poorer academic performance. In 2013-14, 36.3% of pupils entitled to Free School Meals achieved A*to C grades in English and maths, compared with 62.7% of all pupils. It is unacceptable for children’s achievement at school and success in life to be constrained by economic disadvantage, and we think it is right, on this basis, that we target additional funding to schools with the most deprived pupils. The purpose of low prior attainment funding is to make sure that as many young people as possible leave school with the right skills to be able to succeed in adult life. It is for this reason that many local authorities choose to target extra funding to pupils who may need additional support in order to develop these skills.

The petitioners suggest that their local schools forum cannot address what they consider to be an unfair funding gap between schools in their area. However, local authorities decide how to distribute funding between schools in their area in consultation with their schools forum and according to their assessment of local need. The Education Funding Agency publishes all local formulae on its website, which should allow the petitioners to compare the proportions of funding allocated to deprivation by different local authorities, if they wish to do so.

The petitioners may be interested to note that the revised School Admissions Code, which came into force on 19 December, has made it easier for all schools, including grammar schools, to give priority to disadvantaged children in their admission arrangements. This provides grammar schools with a practical means for supporting disadvantaged children; and would of course mean that these schools become eligible for the pupil premium funding which these students attract.