A HIGHER number of children from Southend are gaining places at the borough’s award winning grammar schools.

More than half of Year Seven pupils who started at a Southend grammar schools in September live within the borough, new figures have revealed.

It follows a three year campaign by Southend Council to get Year Five pupils to consider the 11 Plus exam as a viable option in order to try and increase the number of local children attending the borough’s four grammar schools.

This has led to a 12 per cent increase in local children going to these schools.

Mike Skelly, headmaster of Westcliff High School for Boys, said “Ten years ago we set up the Westcliff Centre for Gifted Children to promote local entry to the grammar schools. Our programmes such as “Go for Grammar!” have proved very popular and we are delighted that we filled our quota of 75 per cent of pupils joining from our local priority area this September. We have increased our quota to reserve 80 per cent of places for local pupils from September 2020. We are delighted local pupils and parents value the high-quality education and opportunities that a grammar school can provide.”

Southend Council welcomed the success.

Anne Jones, councillor responsible for children and learning, said: “To have over 50 per cent of the Year 7 students live within the borough is excellent news, and something we are keen to continue promoting so that we can ensure that more local children have the information and opportunity to apply for the 11 plus if they wish to.”

News of the increases comes at a time when the future of selective education has again been questioned.Jerry Glazier Essex National Education Union Branch Secretary, said: “Selective education in Southend undermines the opportunities within the other secondary schools by taking away a significant proportion of the most able students.

“The current figure shows almost half the students in Southend grammars do not originate from the borough. Some are travelling significant distances from Essex and beyond.”