Education Minister David Laws says Kent grammar schools 'must do more'

Children sitting 11-plus exam Thousands of 11-year-olds are due to learn the results of the Kent Test on Wednesday

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Grammar schools in Kent need to offer more places to bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds, the Education Minister has said.

At a Lib Dem event in Maidstone, David Laws said the achievement gap between children on free school meals and those who were not was too wide.

His warning comes as thousands of 11-year-olds are due to learn the results of the Kent Test on Wednesday.

The exam decides whether or not pupils can apply to grammar school.

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said the group was "very concerned" about the achievement gap between children on free school meals and those who were not.

The gap has been attributed to thousands of parents paying for their children to be tutored to help them get a place at a grammar school.

"It's true to some extent you can buy a place at grammar school," Mr McGovern said.

'Academically strong'

"There are about a million tutors across the country - that's twice as many as there are teachers - so it's an immense business.

"The solution I think is very simple - we need more grammar school places.

"Because I think any child who's got an academic bent, who's academically strong, needs to have a place at a grammar school."

Matthew Bartlett, head of Dover Grammar School for Girls, said the school used a selection system that takes a child's full potential into account, and not just their performance on the day of the Kent Test.

"For over 20 years we've had our own entrance test which is designed to identify potential, which is particularly important in an area where you've got social and economic deprivation," he said.

"That's been a very key part of our success and we judge that success by looking at how well students from all groups, not least those vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, do - and we have seen ongoing progress year on year."

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