MORE Southend pupils are striving for grammar school places after the Echo exposed the town’s children were being left behind.

Following years of flat-lining, the proportion of pupils from Southend primary schools taking the 11-plus has jumped 5 per cent this year.

The increase comes after the Echo revealed the town’s top performing grammar schools were filled with pupils from outside the borough.

New figures show 45.7 per cent of pupils took the entrance exam in September – the highest proportion in at least four years.

The rise also comes after Southend Council made more information available about secondary school options to parents.

James Courtenay, Southend councillor responsible for children and learning, said: “It’s certainly a plus point and the Echo articles will have helped, as will the direct contact between the council and parents.

"It’s only a good thing parents are asking teachers whether their children should go for the 11-plus and I’d expect parents, teachers and headteachers to work together to decide if it is the right thing.”

The number of pupils sitting the exam rose from 772 in September 2012 to 824 last September.

The increase was most noticeable in schools that usually fail to put many pupils forward, with big rises at Friars Primary School and Hinguar Primary School, both in Shoebury, Edwards Hall Primary School, Eastwood, and Porters Grange Primary School, Southend.

Councillors launched a probe after the Echo revealed just one in ten Southend pupils pass the 11-plus and just 197 were offered places at the four grammar schools at the start of the academic year. A report is expected in the coming weeks.

Speaking in December, Lynn Morris, headteacher of Earls Hall Junior School, Westcliff, said: “We have had far more questions about the 11-plus from parents than ever before as a result of the coverage in the Echo.”

Education bosses wrote to all schools saying they expect all pupils predicted to achieve level five in English and maths in their SATs to be entered for the 11-plus and wrote to all parents of Year 5 pupils outlining the choices of secondary schools and key deadlines for entry.

The council’s head of learning, Jane Theadom, said: “It’s good to see an increase as a healthy indication that more parents and children might be considering a grammar school education.

“It’s also good to see the option of a grammar school education is becoming more common in schools where previously there has been less interest.”

The 11-plus results are expected in March.