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Council defends grammar schools in wake of Ofsted chief's criticism
A LEADING voice in education has criticised the grammar school system, operated in Bucks, saying it does not do enough to help the disadvantaged in society.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted's chief inspector of schools in England, said grammar schools are "stuffed full of middle class kids" and do little to boost poorer students’ chances.
But education authority Bucks County Council says it works to create opportunities for all children, claiming the majority of factors affecting social mobility happen outside the classroom.
The grammar school system in Bucks is one of the most prized in the country, and a key reason why house prices are so high in the area.
Supporters of the system argue that it gives children from poorer backgrounds the chance to achieve better results at grammars than they might otherwise, as the 11+ selection test should serve as a test of ability.
However, the test has come in for increasing criticism in recent years as it has become more commonplace for children to be coached for it, with more affluent families able to spend more on private tutors.
This year the style of the test was changed in a bid to make it harder to coach.
Mr Wilshaw told the Observer that grammar schools no longer serve social mobility.
He said the situation that only three per cent of grammar school pupils received free school meals - a key indicator of poverty - was "a nonsense" and insisted that grammars only serve the top tier of society while ignoring the less affluent.
It is understood that even less than 3 per cent of pupils receive free school meals in Bucks grammar schools.
But BCC claims its research reveals 80 per cent of factors affecting children’s development happen outside school.
And the authority insists it does all it can to provide opportunities for youngsters to develop in schools, regardless of whether they passed their 11+.
Sue Imbriano, Buckinghamshire County Council's Strategic Director for Children and Young People said: "As a local authority with a responsibility for children and young people and standards in education, we work extremely closely with all schools including Grammar schools to maximise opportunities for all children.
"We carry out work and projects with a range of partners aimed at creating the right environment for children and young people to thrive and develop.”
The selective schools educate around five per cent of England’s population, including thousands throughout Bucks.
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