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12 December 2016updated 05 Oct 2023 8:22am

The 6 times evidence showed grammar schools are a D- idea

While 12.5 per cent of pupils come from private schools, just 2.5 per cent are on free school meals. 

By Julia Rampen

The government’s plan to expand grammar schools will make it harder, not easier, for poorer pupils to do well, the Education Policy Institute has found. 

Its report revealed that the areas where there is support for grammar schools are those that already have grammar schools. In poorer areas, there is less public support in the first place.

In short, the policy diverts further resources towards selective schools that are hardest for the poor to access, and away from boosting education across the board. 

The public “have had enough of experts”, the former education secretary Michael Gove declared ahead of the Brexit vote. But when it comes to grammar schools, the selective sceptic and the experts may be on the same side.

Here are some of the separate reports that found grammar schools are not such an A+ idea after all:

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1. Poor kids don’t get in

An earlier study by the Education Policy Institute found that just 2.5 per cent of grammar school pupils on free school meals, compared to an average of 13.2 per cent in state-funded high schools as a whole. 

2. It does matter if you’re Black… or White

Among disadvantaged kids, White British and Black pupils were among the least likely to get in, according to research from the Sutton Trust. In 2016, just 0.7 per cent of grammar school pupils were disadvantaged White British and 0.8 per cent were Black (disadvantaged Asian and non-British White pupils did better). 

3. Private school parents love them

The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that roughly 12 per cent of Year 7 grammar school pupils were not at a state school the previous year, compared to 2 per cent in the state school system as a whole. 

It concluded: “This strongly suggests that a lot of children move from private schools into grammar schools at age 11.”

Grammar schools are great! Thanks to the taxpayers, Sebastian’s parents can fit in TWO skiing holidays this year!

4. Grammar schools don’t pay 

A 2014 Institute for Education paper found that individuals who grew up in areas where selective schooling took place were more likely to have unequal wages. Researchers found that, even when controlling for gender and background, 18 per cent of the earnings gap could be put down to the schooling system. 

5. Poor kids still struggle

Grammar school fans argue that selective schooling gives those kids who do make it a world class education. But that doesn’t actually stack up. 

Historical analysis of grammar schools in the supposedly golden age of the 1950s found that a third of those from the most deprived backgrounds left without a single O level. 

More recently, a study found pupils in the poorest 40 per cent of families do worse than average, and then-Education ministers Gove and David Laws criticised grammar schools for not doing enough to reach out to poor pupils. 

6. Selective schools will not win the rankings game

Even for those policymakers who just want to own the Pisa ranking tables, grammar schools spell doom. 

The FT’s statistics man Chris Cook grouped areas of selective education into a mythical English region, Selectivia, and ranked it against the others. It came six out of ten. 

Although some pupils scored very highly on their test results, the others scored disproportionately badly, and the overall ranking for the region represented that fact. 

 

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