THE number of Southend pupils gaining a place at the town’s grammar schools has risen again.

Almost half, 43 per cent, of places at Southend’s four grammar schools will be taken by pupils from the town’s primary schools this September after the number passing the 11-plus jumped by a third in two years, the Echo can reveal.

A total of 263 pupils from Southend’s primary schools have been offered a grammar school place – the highest figure and highest pass rate for six years.

Southend Council launched a seven-point plan to improve 11-plus pass rates last April after the Echo exposed the town’s children were losing out to pupils from outside the borough.

Anne Jones, Southend councillor responsible for children and learning, said: “I am pleased to see more Southend children passed the 11-plus this year and this shows things are moving in the right direction.

“The council wants every young person to achieve the best possible academic and vocational results they can and we have supported families and schools to make the 11-plus more accessible to all children.

“We have also challenged our primary schools to ensure all children who have the potential to benefit from a grammar school education, regardless of their background or social circumstances, should be encouraged to do so.

“The information we provide to parents, and our communication with them, has also improved.

“Through our ‘Seven Point Pledge’ we are committed to continuing this work in partnership with all schools in the borough.”

Almost half of Southend’s primary school pupils (42.5 per cent) took the exam and a third (32.6 per cent) passed, up from just a quarter two years ago, before the Echo ran a series of stories on the subject.

The proportion of pupils taking the exam has dipped slightly on last year, from 45.7 per cent to 42.5 per cent, but both the number and proportion of all Southend pupils being offered a grammar place rose, to 13.9 per cent.