Grammar Schools: FAQs

Do grammar schools raise standards?

Grammar schools do a good job for the people they educate. A report by Durham University in 2008 found that the pupils that attend grammar schools do better than equally able pupils in comprehensive schools. However, while pupils in grammar schools perform better in a selective system, the remaining pupils (i.e the majority) that are not educated at grammar schools do slightly worse. Grammar schools may have provided better outcomes for those few who attend them, but such benefits are more than cancelled out by the negative consequences on those left behind. At a system level, the attainment gap widens.

Do grammar schools improve social mobility?

There is very little evidence to suggest that grammar schools improve social mobility. A report by the Sutton Trust has found that less than 3% of pupils in grammar schools are eligible for free school meals, a common indicator of social deprivation, despite the fact that 18% of young people in selective areas are on free school meals.

In selective local authorities, 66% of non-FSM eligible pupils who achieve level 5 in both English and maths at Key Stage 2 compared to 40% of FSM eligible pupils who achieved the same grades.

The gap between the highest and lowest paid individuals in selective education local authorities is much wider than the highest and lowest paid individuals in non-selective local authorities. The average hourly wage difference between the 10% and bottom 10% of earners in selective areas was £16.41 between 2009 and 2012 compared to £12.33 in non-selective areas. University of Bristol, University of Bath and IoE

Research has suggested that education systems that select at age 11, such as Germany and Austria, are some of the most socially segregated. Whereas those

Will grammar schools make a difference in socially deprived areas?

Grammar schools in socially deprived areas would only widen the gap between the most affluent individuals in the community and the more disadvantaged. This is proven by the aforementioned evidence that shows that those who do not make it into grammar schools perform worse than they would in a completely non-selective school. 

What about if all grammar schools were made to take a certain percentage of FSM-eligible students?

While this would be better than a system where selective schools were not obligated to take a certain percentage of FSM-eligible schools, it still allows for a more unequal society. The pupils that do not attend the selective schools would still have worse educational outcomes than they would in a non-selective system.  

What is the Fair Education Alliance?

The Fair Education Alliance is a coalition of over 70 organisations, including charities, unions, social enterprises, businesses and educational establishments, working in collaboration to ensure that every child has access to a world class education irrespective of their socio-economic background. The aim is to close the educational attainment gap between the most disadvantaged pupils and their wealthier peers.

What is the Fair Education Alliance’s position on grammar schools?

The Fair Education Alliance welcomes a debate on how to improve social mobility but we strongly believe that an expansion of grammar schools would lead to worse outcomes for poor children. Evidence shows that grammar schools serve a small amount of disadvantaged pupils and they have a pernicious effect on surrounding schools. Instead, we should focus on working together to take bold action to attract more teachers into the most deprived areas, invest in high quality early years provision and guarantee access to impartial and professional careers advice for deprived young people.

If grammar schools are not the way to improve social mobility then what is?

Our coalition has backed an agenda that can quickly improve social mobility and achieve the Fair Education Impact Goals by 2022. In particular, we believe that bold action to attract the best leaders and teachers into the most deprived parts of the country, investment in the quality of the early years workforce and the guaranteed provision of impartial careers advice are needed urgently. We fear that another divisive debate about structural reform in education will only serve as a distraction from pressing issues that affect the poorest children. 


(Source: ASCL)