Ethnic minority children missing out on grammar school

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Ethnic minority children are missing out on grammar school places because of a racially-biased 11-plus exam, campaigners have warned.

Hundreds of British Pakistani and other ethnic minority children sitting the entrance exam for Buckinghamshire are only half as likely as the white classmates to secure a place at one of the county’s selective secondary schools, according to data released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The figures, which also show a similarly low pass rate for black Caribbean children, have prompted calls for the immediate suspension of 11-plus in Buckinghamshire, which is the only place in the country to automatically enter all its state primary school pupils for the exam to gain entry to its 13 grammar schools.

Figures released to campaign group Local Equal Excellent by the Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools show that British Pakistani children, who form the largest ethnic minority cohort in the county, had a pass rate of 8.6 per cent in 2014 and 10.9 per cent last year, compared to 19.4 per cent and 21.1 per cent for white British pupils. For black Caribbean children, the pass rate was zero in 2014 and 12.8 per cent in 2015. The average pass rate regardless of ethnicity was 19.5 per cent and 21.5 per cent respectively.

Around 10 similar schemes are understood to be at various stages of preparation, including several which would see selective schools introduced to areas currently served by the non-selective comprehensive system.

The expansion plans have once more placed claims that England’s 163 remaining grammar schools boost social mobility under the spotlight amid evidence of widespread use of tutoring by better-off families to improve their children’s chances of 11-plus success.

A report last year showed that pupils from private schools were two and a half times more likely to pass the exam in Buckinghamshire and the pass rate for children on free school meals was one-eighth the average.

Rebecca Hickman, of Local Equal Excellent, said: “The new evidence paints a disturbing picture of a selective system underpinned by clear and substantial bias against children from certain ethnic groups.

“Crucially, this racial bias is also against high-ability children from these backgrounds – precisely those who are supposed to benefit from grammar schools.

“This is entirely preventable discrimination at the heart of our education system. So long as grammar schools effectively select on the basis of racial and social factors, the system is not only profoundly unjust, but the whole rationale for selection is fatally flawed.”

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