There are a nearly 100 empty Year 7 places in grammar schools across Buckinghamshire, latest figures reveal.

Despite nearly 300 more Buckinghamshire children being told they had not qualified for a grammar school place last year compared to 2013, there are still 91 free spaces in the county’s grammar schools, according to figures released by educational campaign group, Local, Equal and Excellent (LEE).

Rebecca Hickman, from LEE, said the figures show that grammar schools are serving their local community “less and less”, with many children having to travel long distances to attend secondary school.

Yet Philip Wayne, the chairman of the Buckinghamshire grammar schools, said that, unlike some schools, the county’s grammar schools have a qualifying mark and do not admit children on “rank order”.

He added that children going through the appeals process could gain one of these “empty” places if they wish to do so.

The figures from Buckinghamshire County Council, which were released by LEE, show that there are the following empty places in Year 7:

  • John Hampden Grammar School – 22 empty places
  • Chesham Grammar School – 19 empty places
  • Burnham Grammar School – 11 empty places
  • Aylesbury High School – 9 empty places
  • Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School – 29 empty places
  • Sir William Borlase Grammar School – 1 empty place

    LEE said that, if the 2013 qualification rate for Bucks children had been maintained in 2014, 89 more children from the county should have qualified for a grammar school place than actually did – almost exactly the number of grammar school places now left empty.

The campaign group believes that one of the reasons why the county’s children lost out on places in 2014 was the large increase in the number of non-Bucks children sitting and passing the new, revamped 11 Plus exam, which was introduced in 2013.

With many of those children out of the county choosing not to take up their offers of grammar school places, there was a surplus, according to LEE.

Ms Hickman said: “Unfortunately, these new figures are likely to cause outrage for the many local parents whose children were denied a grammar school place in 2014.

“We know of children in High Wycombe who are being forced to travel many miles to secondary school each day – even as far as Slough and Burnham – while schools on their doorstep with empty places deny them entry.

“The grammar schools are serving their local communities less and less. Yet it is difficult to find a local politician who is prepared to stand up for the many children who are losing out.

“If a local authority believes any school admissions arrangements to be unfair they are obliged by law to report those arrangements to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator.

“However, the political leadership of Bucks County Council refuse to do so, and so are effectively saying to parents that they consider the way in which the 11 Plus is working to be fair.”

Dr Katy Simmons, chair of governors at a High Wycombe school, added: “The school place problem is just another unintended outcome of the ‘new’ flawed 11 Plus test.

“It’s time Bucks County Council had the courage to challenge this test, in the interests of all Bucks children. Are they afraid of the grammar schools?

“While some grammar schools have empty desks, the only solution that BCC has so far come up with is to put pressure on upper schools to take more students.

“This is no solution – it simply shifts the problem onto already hard-pressed upper schools and onto children, who are travelling huge distances to get to school.

“The school system in Bucks show signs of falling apart on many fronts: the council needs to act with some courage to ensure fairness for everyone.”

Mr Wayne said: “Buckinghamshire grammar schools, as in previous years, do indeed have some Year 7 places which were not filled in September because there were no further qualifying pupils expressing a preference or on the waiting list for those schools.

“Unlike some schools, Bucks grammars do not admit by rank order until they are full; we have a qualifying mark.

“The process to fill these places with late transfers from local children, who take priority, is being undertaken by the individual schools, whose responsibility it is... [to] operate the testing and appeals process. This is a second opportunity for local children to gain the required qualification for a grammar school place if they wish to do so.”