Schools bill: grammar schools

7th July 2022

There are 163 grammar schools established across England which are free to select their full pupil intake by academic ability. The government’s proposal to move to a fully trust-led system by 2030 had raised some initial concerns about how grammar schools’ selective admissions criteria would be protected in a MAT. The government has now confirmed its plans to ensure that grammar schools are secure in MATs and that their selective status is protected.

Protecting grammar schools

The Secretary of State will initially be required to designate the 143 academy grammar schools in England as grammar schools. This will mean that academy grammar schools will be placed on an equal footing with the 20 maintained grammar schools in England.

In addition, in future, the only way in which selective criteria will be able to be removed from a grammar school that has academy status will be by a public ballot of eligible parents, initiated by a petition.

This is a clear step by the government to ensure that a Board of Trustees of a MAT comprising a range of schools cannot propose to remove selection criteria from a grammar school within its family of schools. This gives protection against trusts trying to remove selection against the will of parents.

How will selective criteria be removed in the future?

The government’s proposal is that, with the implementation of the new legislation, the only way in which selection could be removed at a grammar school is through these steps:

  • If a petition of eligible parents is initiated
  • If 20% of eligible parents sign the petition, a ballot will be held to decide whether selection admissions criteria should be removed
  • A simple majority vote in favour will lead to the admission arrangements being amended to remove selective criteria, and the Secretary of State will revoke the school’s designation as a grammar school

Outside of this process, there will be no right for the academy trust to remove a grammar school’s selective criteria.

Practical steps

Legislation to protect the selective criteria for grammar schools is anticipated to take effect in the 2023/24 academic year. Grammar schools may therefore be encouraged to explore options to join a multi-academy trust, in line with the government’s plan to have a fully trust led system by 2030, with reassurance of forthcoming changes to protect selective criteria.

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