Grammar schools ‘would be worse’ for poor children in 96 per cent of local authorities

Education Policy Institute punches a hole in Tory social mobility claims


Grammar schools would make the average results of poor children worse and do nothing to help social mobility in 96 per cent of local authorities, according to a new report.

The Education Policy Institute, a think tank headed by former Lib Dem minister David Laws, checked local areas against four criteria based on the government’s ‘schools that work for everyone’ consultation, which closes today.

These were whether new or expanded grammars would ‘not be to the detriment of pupils who do not attend the school; not undermine existing high performing non-selective schools; be in high demand from parents; and have enough pupils attending within a reasonable travel distance’.

Nearly all of the 152 local authorities in England failed these tests, and would likely see achievement get worse for disadvantaged pupils, with improvements in just six authorities – or four per cent. The report said:

“Expanding existing grammar schools is likely in a majority of such areas to reduce the average attainment of disadvantaged pupils and is therefore unlikely to improve social mobility.”

It added: “A more promising approach in the most disadvantaged and low attaining areas may therefore be to focus on increasing the quality of existing non-selective school places.”

Today’s report follows Sutton Trust research on Friday which found pupils in lower income households – Prime Minister Theresa May’s ‘just about managing’ – are less than half as likely to go to grammar schools than their wealthier neighbours.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said:

“Today’s report joins the mountains of evidence that proves a return to grammar schools will not improve education for all, but will actively make things worse.

Tory plans to bring back grammar schools are nothing more than a distraction to cover up the real problems they have created over the last 6 years: a teacher shortage crisis, thousands of children in super-sized classes, school budget cuts and not enough good school places.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said:

“Faced with the overwhelming evidence, from international sources, from research and from the evidence of the current effects of selection in England, a government interested in evidence based policy would back off from a bad idea.”

The Department of Education called the report ‘highly speculative’ and ‘a crude attempt to second guess’ the results of the government’s consultation.

Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13 

See: ‘Jam’ children half as likely as rich kids to go to grammar schools

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2 Responses to “Grammar schools ‘would be worse’ for poor children in 96 per cent of local authorities”

  1. GodfreyR

    Grammar Schools were the engine of social mobility back in the 50s and 60s. Many working class children were lifted out of poverty by being given the opportunity of an academic education that was only available in private schools. The same is true now.

    Sink in a ‘bog standard’ Comp or rise through taking advantage of a real education. I know what I’d want for my children.

  2. Alasdair Macdonald

    GodfreyR is recycling an old, mendacious canard. Grammar schools were removed because the selective system was not serving the population well. There was considerable consensus amongst all parties from the 1950s onwards. In Scotland and Wales they ceased completely, and, in almost every l.e.a. in England they were ended, mostly during Mrs Thatcher’s tenure as Secretary of State for Education.
    Comprehensive schools are about giving all children access to all aspects of the curriculum. This is not, as ‘new’ Labour shamefully tagged it ‘the one-size-fits-all “bog-standard” comprehensive. It was to maximise opportunity for every child. Since comprehensive schools were introduced, the level of attainment across the population has increased and this was not because of the lie repeated by the media of ‘dumbing down’. Matching school leaving qualifications, students from comprehensive schools attain significantly better university degrees than those from selective or private schools. Reintroducing grammar schools, will, as Mr Laws’ group indicates, have a detrimental effect on the educational outcomes of children in England. Scotland and Wales have no plans for the reintroduction of selective education. The situation in Northern Ireland is again different. There has been a move towards more comprehensive style schools and the attainment of children from Roman Catholic families has increased markedly.

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