Walsall grammar schools to welcome disadvantaged pupils
Walsall’s two grammar schools will be expanded to give disadvantaged children the chance of getting places there.
The Mercian Trust, to which both Queen Mary’s High and Queen Mary’s Grammar schools are part of, secured more than £3.5million from the Department for Education’s selective schools expansion fund for the project.
The money will be used to create 30 extra Year 7 places at each school from 2020 which will be earmarked for looked after children and youngsters who qualify for the pupil premium.
A number of the extra places will be earmarked for Walsall children to answer concerns raised by councillors about limited opportunities for local pupils.
Both schools will also go to Walsall primary schools and hold workshops to help prepare pupils for the entrance exams.
Queen Mary’s High School for girls will receive £1,814,684 for its building project to allow pupil admissions to go from the current 120 to 150.
And Queen Mary’s Grammar has been allocated £1,778, 104 and will see its admission number increase by 30 to 180.
Current rules under the Greenwich Agreement mean selective schools choose pupils based on highest scores in the entrance exams and cannot restrict places to children living outside their boroughs.
But this initiative under the Fair Access Partnership Plan will introduce a qualifying score for disadvantaged children to achieve that will be lower than the standard test.
Tim Swain, chief executive officer of The Mercian Trust to which both schools belong to, told Walsall Council’s Education and Overview Scrutiny Committee meeting on Thursday night (January 10) that they were two of only 16 successful bids out of 164 grammar schools in the country.
He said: “We are incredibly excited about this and hope that it will make a difference in Walsall.”
Dr Alison Bruton, headteacher at Queen Mary’s High, said: “We have very able pupils who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and this will allow them to thrive and soar.”
Secondary school teacher representative Russ Bragger raised concerns about the impact on other Walsall schools if pupil premium pupils are taken by both Queen Mary’s.
But Mr Swain added: “There will be some level of impact in terms of outstanding pupils with great potential not going elsewhere but we are talking about a small number.”
He added they would continue to monitor the situation and work with other schools to share good practice.
Councillor Chris Towe, portfolio holder for education, said: “I’m delighted that this plan is coming into place to have more local children in our grammar schools.
"I value the commitment of both grammar school headteachers to this and we will fully support it in any way we can."
By Gurdip Thandi