North West Academies Trust (NWAT)’s proposals for two new free schools on the Wirral have been cited as an example of a progressive ‘bottom up’ reform of the grammar school system by the Chair of National Grammar School Association (NGSA).
In an article titled New Grammar Schools – How, When and for Whom? Bob McCartney QC discusses the two central propositions within the Government’s grammar school consultation paper – namely that current grammar schools are academically successful and should increase in numbers, and that able, but socially disadvantaged, pupils should have greater access to them.
Whilst Mr McCartney praises the basic premise of the proposals he quickly highlights the need for a pro-active strategy to allow said pupils the option of a grammar school education.
Mr McCartney said: “Since grammar schools by their nature are academic, all children, regardless of their background, are requested to demonstrate by a selective test that they will benefit from the education they offer. In competition with their better-off peers who enjoy a range of advantages from informed, aspirational parents to private coaching, disadvantaged children are severely handicapped.”
Identifying what he see as the main obstacles – including parental apathy and lack of awareness and low academic standards – he suggest that any reform of the system must start at primary level and involve a ‘bottom up’ approach rather than what he sees as the ‘top-down strategy’ outlined in the Government’s consultation paper.
Mr McCartney said: “The NGSA has recently become aware of a proposal by the North West Academies Trust which demonstrates a complete and practical scheme for the “bottom-up” approach advocated in the NGSA’s response paper. The trust has an outstanding record in turning around some of the worst-performing primary schools in England. It proposes to open two free primary schools on two sites across the disadvantaged areas of the Wirral. The applications opening paragraph discloses its aim:
‘… to provide a high quality innovative education which enables pupils to go on and attend a grammar school. Our schools will admit a mixture of pupils with the criteria that at least 50% are in receipt of free school meals…’
“Is it presumptuous to suggest that the Minister, her officials and the PM’s special adviser might find it more profitable to consult with such as the North West Academies Trust rather than solely with the representatives of established and perhaps vested interests?”
NWAT is delighted that our commitment to increasing opportunity and choice for all children, regardless of social or economic background, has been recognised in this way and we remain passionate about providing stimulating and vibrant learning environments for each and every pupil.
To read the full article by Mr Bob McCartney QC click here NGSA – New grammar schools-Bob McCartney