The Education Act 1944 brought about major changes to the education system in England and Wales. Among these were the extension of free education to all state secondary schools and introduction of the tripartite system at secondary levels; grammar, technical and secondary modern. Grammar schools had existed long before the Act, but their status was similar to that of a current independent school. State support was extended to the ‘new’ grammar schools in the early 20th century, which effectively created a class of maintained grammar schools. Alongside these were direct grant grammar schools which received public funding to pay the fees of pupils from state primary schools that had to make up at least 25% of their places. Very few of these schools were entirely free.
In 1997, there were 128,710 pupils in grammar schools in England. There are currently 163,000 pupils in grammar schools. The proportion of pupils in grammar schools has risen from around 4% to 5% of all pupils. There are now 163 grammar schools.
(From The House of Commons and The Sutton Trust)