Grammar Schools: The Evidence Base
The Sutton Trust, 2015, Grammar Schools – Sutton Trust Fact Sheet
- Less than 3% of entrants to grammar schools are entitled to free school meals – an important indicator of social deprivation. The average proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals in selective areas was 18%.
- Almost 13% of entrants come from outside the state sector, largely believed to be fee-paying preparatory schools.
- Children from wealthier backgrounds have a much greater chance of attending a grammar school than similarly high achieving more disadvantaged children (as measured by their Key Stage 2 test scores). For example, in selective local authorities, 66% of children who achieve level 5 in both English and Maths at Key Stage 2 who are not eligible for free school meals go to a grammar school compared with 40% of similarly high achieving children who are eligible for free school meals.
- Pupils are less likely to attend a grammar school if they attend primary schools with a high proportion of pupils from deprived backgrounds. Pupils attending a primary school with a large number of high-achieving pupils are also less likely to go to a grammar school, perhaps because they under-estimate their own ability.
Bolton, P., 2016, Grammar School Statistics, House of Commons
Even among the brightest pupils (in the top quarter of performers at the end of primary school) free school meal rates in grammar schools were 2% compared to 5% across all schools. Grammar schools are enrolling ‘…half as many academically able children from disadvantaged backgrounds as they could do’.
- Grammar schools reportedly take a relatively large proportion of their pupils from independent preparatory (primary) schools. This rate has been estimated at 13-15%, around double the proportion of 10 year olds who go to independent schools.
Burgess, Dickson and Macmillan, 2014, Selective Schooling Systems Increase Inequality, University of Bath, University of Bristol and Institute of Education
- The average hourly wage difference between the top 10% and bottom 10% of earners born in selective schooling areas was £16.41 between 2009 and 2012. In otherwise similar areas that had gone comprehensive, the equivalent earnings gap was £12.33
- The highest earners from grammar school areas are significantly better off (£1.31 per hour, on average) than top earners born in similar comprehensive authorities. High-earning men appear to gain most from selective school systems.
- The gap at the bottom of the income scale is most evident among women. The lowest-paid women from selective areas earn £0.87 less per hour than women from non-selective authorities.
- While average earnings in both types of area considered are almost identical (£8.59 in selective areas and £8.61 in non-selective) the inequality in earnings is very different.
Cook, C., 2016, Why not bring back grammar schools?, BBC News
- There is no aggregate improvement in results in areas that are selective. The most important change is a clear distributional shift in who does well. In short, the minority of children streamed into the grammars do better. The remaining majority of children - who are not educated in grammars - do slightly worse.
- By the time that children take the 11 plus, there is already a large educational divide. In 2013, there were 1,591 16 year-olds in still-selective Kent eligible for free school meals. Of those children, only 2% had got Key Stage 2 results by the age of 11 that put them in the top tenth of results for the county. A Kentish child not on free school meals would be five times more likely to achieve that feat. So a test at 11 should, by design, select out lots of poorer children.
- Parents in Kent who can afford it pay for tutors, so they can coach their children over the line. The tests, therefore, are skewed even further in favour of the county's wealthier residents.
PISA, 2009, PISA 2009 Results: What Children Know and Can Do
- Systems that show high performance and an equitable distribution of learning outcomes tend to be comprehensive, requiring teachers and schools to embrace diverse student populations through personalised educational pathways. In contrast, school systems that assume that students have different destinations with different expectations and differentiation in terms of how they are placed in schools, classes and grades often show less equitable outcomes without an overall performance advantage.”
- In countries where secondary schools are divided into different educational tracks, overall performance is not enhanced. The younger the age at which this occurs, the greater the difference in student performance by socio-economic background, without improved overall performance.
- Research indicates that education systems that select at 11, such as Germany and Austria, are the most socially segregated. Whereas the higher performing jurisdictions are not selective. Selective education policies do not produce social mobility at scale. The evidence suggests that more selection will create a less equal society.
Allen, R., 2016, There is not yet a proven route to help disadvantaged pupils into grammar schools Education Datalab
Sibieta, L., 2016, Can grammar schools improve social mobility?, Institute for Fiscal Studies
- More recent evidence comes from the expansion of grammar schools in Northern Ireland in the late 1980s. This did raise average attainment over Northern Ireland as a whole, with a 10% increase in the number of pupils getting three or more A-Levels, driven mainly by improved performance amongst those newly able to go to grammar schools. However, the reform also widened educational inequalities with a decline in the performance of pupils not able to go to grammar schools.
- Around half of pupils eligible for free school meals in inner London, where there is no selection, achieve 5 or more GCSEs at A*-C, double the proportion outside London. Furthermore, inner London has been particularly effective for high levels of attainment, with around 15% of pupils eligible for free school meals achieving 8 or more GCSEs at grade B or above in inner London.
- This high level of school performance has been put down to a variety of factors, including improved past primary school performance, greater numbers of high-achieving ethnic minorities and improved practices within and across schools (e.g. greater collaboration, better leadership and extensive use of data).