Agenda and draft minutes

Select Committee - Grammar Schools and Social Mobility - Wednesday, 24th February, 2016 10.00 am

Venue: Darent Room, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions

Contact: Denise Fitch/David Firth/Serine Annan-Veitch  03000 416090/416089/415782

Note No. Item

10.00 - 10.45am


Michaela Lewis, Headteacher - Upton Junior School, Broadstairs and Cliff Stokes, Headteacher - Newington Community Primary School, Ramsgate pdf icon PDF 61 KB


1.    Mrs Whittle welcomed Headteachers and members to the information sharing session to discuss possibilities for improving social mobility through increasing the numbers of FSM children within grammar schools. She invited the Headtechers to briefly describe their respective roles and responsibilities.


2.    Qus.  Why are disadvantaged students, who are eligible for FSM, less likely to enrol in a grammar school, despite the fact that they may be academically high achieving?


Mr Stokes explained that Primary school have children 18% of their lives- home influence is paramount. Linguistic ability is determined by the age of 3-parental engagement is key.


3.    Qus Please expand-what is preschool provision for primary school intake?


Mr Stokes - The Children’s Centre attached to Newington Primary does not service local families. If the Headtecher was given free rein he  would like to incorporate the CC into the overall offering and would hence have far more potential to engage with all of the estate families and impact the under 3’s which was crucial.


4.    Qus Is the Children’s Centre intake from the Estate?


Mr Stokes -  No, parents drive through, they use the CC and then move on


5.    Qus Do you have an outreach policy?


Mr Stokes - FLO support. We mainly work with children enrolled in school. When necessary we force engagement by making repeated ‘phone calls, knock doors, distribute story sacks, instil self-regulation and enforce parental responsibility.


6.    Qus We have evidence of Childrens Centres that do work well, classes run to teach parents how to read and write-do you have in-house education for parents?


Mr Stokes - Yes, daily e.g. story time sessions with all parents invited,(some parents work daytime)but still major issues reaching hardest 10%.It would be far more efficient if the HT ran the Children’s Centre. He could see no reason why this would not be possible.


7.    Qus Do you try and engage with Children’s Centre?


Mr Stokes - Yes. I would close and reopen for the benefit of the Estate children.


8.    Qus What do Children’s Centre say?


Mr Stokes - Due to funding cuts they are only able to open 60% of time. Schools with a nursery attached reach 3-5 year olds more successfully and do help narrow the gap in inequality with more success than nurseries in the private sector.


9.    Qus What do you think about parents perception that there is too much pressure on primary age children, what can be done to alleviate concern and foster a more positive attitude?


Mrs Lewis - Upton set homework throughout whole school, Years 5 and 6 are in preparation for secondary school, whichever school they move onto. Most primary schools provide homework clubs at the beginning or end of the school day.


Mrs Lewis - 43% of Upton children go on to grammar schools. They often coast during year 7 and grammar schools need to “up their game” to accommodate the more able students.


10.Qus Do you encourage aspirations in the deprived areas?


Mrs Lewis -  ...  view the full minutes text for item 1.

11.00 - 11.45am


David Anderson, Headteacher - Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Faversham and Andy Williamson, Headteacher - Wilmington Grammar School for Boys pdf icon PDF 66 KB


1.    Interview with David Anderson, Headteacher, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Faversham & Andy Williamson Headteacher, Wilmington Boys Grammar School.


2.    The Chairman welcomed David Anderson & Andy Williams to the meeting.


3.    David introduced himself and gave an outline of the responsibilities of his post. He explained that he had been Head at QE since 2008, he had studied D & T at the University of London, Goldsmiths College and worked at 4 Kent Grammar Schools. He explained that QE had been a tremendous experience with a very mixed intake. As part of his responsibilities he had a national role in giving policy and advice, supporting teachers and Government Committee’s etc.


4.    Andy introduced himself and explained that he was Headteacher at WGSB which was a small village on the Kent border with a mixed catchment area. He had previously been Deputy Head at Hartsdown in Margate and previously at an inner city school in London. What are your FSM intake levels?


5.    Andy replied that it was 2.3% in 2010 and now 9.1% overall intake; this had increased incrementally.


6.    David advised that across the main school it was 6% but in years 7 and 8 it was approaching 10%.


7.    Andy explained that there were other Grammar Schools in the area and they were super selective and had re-written their admission criteria so that entrance was dependent on pass mark of the Kent Test


8.    David advised that the figures would continue to rise; he explained that eligibility for free school meals was top of their admission criteria. He explained that they had received 500 applications for 140 places. Priority was free school meals (over location) and a number of students had confirmed that they were choosing QE because of this.


9.    Andy went on to advise that parents who were claiming free school meals at Primary school sometimes didn’t claim at grammar school as there is some stigma attached to this.


10.Would anyone be aware of FSM status?


He replied that in fact they wouldn’t. He advised that a liaison officer would speak to the families concerned to ally such fears but went on to advise that parents dropping off children in Range Rovers will often come to the school gates but those in the older vehicles will drop off around the corner. He explained that this image is often reinforced in the school with perhaps Latin on a board in the Reception area. Some parents find this off putting and it is a massive part of perception of what a Grammar School is like.


David explained that he tried to make his school more accessible and carried out a lot of functions in school with Primary Schools, particularly around literature, drama and Science, trying to break down the perception that Grammar schools are too elitist.


What is the involvement like with Primary Schools? Mr Hotson stated that some schools appear to have been good and some just started in terms of outreach, he asked the two  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2.

12.00 - 12.45pm


Alice Witty, Headteacher - Pilgrims' Way Primary School, Canterbury pdf icon PDF 64 KB


(1)       Mrs Alice Witty is the Head Teacher at Pilgrims’ Way Primary School in Canterbury which is part of the Village Academy.   This is a multi-academy Trust which consists of 7 autonomous primary schools, each with its own approach and ethos.   She has also held a leadership position at a local catholic primary school and worked at Bysing Wood Primary School in an area of deprivation in Faversham.


(2)       Pilgrims’ Way primary School is situated in an area of social deprivation. Sixty per cent of its pupils receive the Pupil Premium (15% Service Premium and 45% Free School Meals). 


(3)       Why are disadvantaged students who are eligible for FSM less likely to enrol in a grammar school despite the fact that they may be academically high achieving?  This is very much a question of parental perception.  There is a difference in perception from those from the larger estates and those from areas where there is a greater socio-economic mix.  At Pilgrims’ Way, many parents simply believe that a grammar school education is not for their children.  Work is needed to help parents understand the value that a grammar school education can bring. 


(4)       We are able to identify children with grammar school potential at an early stage in their school careers.  We talk to the parents and offer a presentation by the Family Liaison Officer.  


(5)       Our School puts on a great number of events for parents of pupils. These are normally very well attended.  This is not the case on those days when we explain the Kent Test.  Attendance at these meetings is very low, even though we go so far as to personally invite some of the parents.  They do not believe that a grammar school could be more suitable for their child than a high school.


(6)       The parents had an expectation that their children would go on to attend the Chaucer School.  When it closed, we had to provide support to many parents who were worried that their child would need to take a bus to The Spires School.  Even thinking about a grammar school is a step further than this.


(7)       Our approach to engaging with and raising expectations amongst parents has been to provide enjoyable activities for parents to attend with their children.  This has led to more events and higher attendance.  Examples of events that have taken place on parents’ days are phonics and cyber bullying.  We also invite parents to come in and sit in on classes. Before we started this programme, many parents would not even come onto the playground.   We feel that if we continue to drip feed the positives to parents, we will find more parents willing to put their children forward for the Kent Test.  At present, though, many parents would find it difficult to walk through the gates of a grammar school.


(8)       We recently had a session where we learned about the Opening Doors Strategy in Birmingham which aims to increase awareness of opportunity and address  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.