Schoolzone blog: Grammar schools and social mobility

Grammar schools and social mobility
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23 Feb 2015

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David Cameron has said that he supports the expansion of grammar schools, as most of his party seem to do nowadays (the UKIP effect?), often claiming that they are better for social mobility. By which, it's generally meant that they help children from less well-off backgrounds to do better at school and therefore get better jobs. But do they?

We looked at the latest Pupil Premium allocation data for grammar schools compared to other secondary schools. We find that the average proportion of pupils on free school meals is 28.9%, whereas for grammars the figure is only 6.7%. So grammars are supporting a very small proportion of PP students.

Next we looked at destination data for KS4 pupils, which, as you might imagine, shows that grammar school pupils are more likely to stay in education or find work, than are non-selective schools: 98% compared to 91%. So the 6.7% of PP pupils are around 7% more likely to go further, meaning that grammar schools achieve a 0.47% uplift in the chances of disadvantaged pupils.

We leave it you, dear reader, to decide whether this can be considered significant. Perhaps you've conducted a destination analysis of your own students to compare against. How big an uplift would you consider represented a success?

In November 2014 , the Institute of Education published a study that found that grammar schools have been no more successful than comprehensives at helping to ensure their pupils gain a university degree or to graduate from an elite higher education institution.

It goes on to support our assertion above, in finding that a grammar school education also does not appear to have increased working-class pupils’ chances of getting a degree.

This is very serious research - following the education history of over 7,700 people since the 1970s. It finds that, while it appears that grammar school students do better at HE, in fact those doing well at primary school and the social background of their parents, has a far bigger impact.

The study, which will be published by the Oxford Review of Education next month, also highlights the huge advantage associated with a private school education. Being bright is not necessarily enough to get a degree from a top university, the report finds. "The advantages of a private education applied even when we took exam results into account," according to Professor Alice Sullivan of the IOE, the study’s lead author. Of course we already know plenty about the injustices of the private education system - even Michael Gove lamented that one. Some might say that parents pay for education in order to achieve that injustice.

This is very timely research - conducted, if you're thinking there might be a fishy reason for its coming out now, before the recent re-opening of the debate. We've already reported on the spread of grammars which has been allowed under the academisation process and it seems very likely that, for all the illegality of new grammars, existing ones can spread as and when they see fit. This research reminds us, should we need a reminder, that this is not good for education or for society.





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