Last week, the Government announced a £50 million funding package to expand the number of places at existing good or outstanding selective schools in a bid to give more disadvantaged pupils the chance to attend these schools.
As a former Dartford Grammar School pupil, I welcome this funding as it is a vote of confidence for the grammar school system.
In fact, this is the first time I can remember extra money being made available specifically for grammar schools.
Here in Dartford, we are fortunate to have four grammar schools which complement the educational opportunities available for local children.
We need to stop pretending that all children are the same, recognise they have different talents and provide schools to reflect this. We should not strive for a ‘one size fits all’ system. Grammar schools form a very important part of a diverse educational system.
The Government has said this money will be available for the 2018-2019 school year so that existing selective schools can expand their premises to create more places. This will give parents greater choice and give more children, from all backgrounds, access to a place.
Research shows children from disadvantaged backgrounds do better in selective schools and most grammar schools now give priority in their admissions criteria for children who qualify for the pupil premium.
This money will be earmarked to allow grammar schools to expand their intake provided they can show that they are maximising the opportunities for poorer children.
In recent years it has generally been accepted that funding for grammar schools has fallen compared to non-selective schools and I believe this funding will help to change that.
As well as expanding the existing schools, I would really like to see some new grammar schools built in Kent and across the whole of the country, in a bid to give all children who pass the 11-plus the chance to get a place.
Children from all backgrounds should be encouraged to fulfil their potential and this money will go some way in helping to achieve that.
Our grammar schools are good schools, they improve social mobility and we should encourage these schools to expand and flourish.