Attainment gap between better-off and poor pupils disappears when schools select only the brightest poor
It’s obvious – if schools choose only the brightest poor pupils, children eligible for free schools meals (FSM) who pass the 11+, then there will be no attainment gap between FSM pupils and the rest.
The attainment gap between better-off and poor pupils would be eliminated at 11 by selection. There will be no gap to close.
This blindingly obvious fact is not shared by the Education Secretary Justine Greening who told the 2016 Tory party conference:
'Grammar schools have a track record of closing the attainment gap between children on free school meals and their better off classmates.'
A Department for Education on 21 November 2016 (now removed) made the same claim and linked to the short survey asking for opinions about government proposals to increase selection. The questionnaire allows multiple, fictitious responses - someone sitting at a computer can answer the survey as many times as they like using made-up names.
At the weekend I submitted two empty responses in the names of Scrooge and Marley. I thought the DfE might be alerted to the problem and start asking for email addresses. But this isn’t the case. It’s still possible for respondents to send as many multiple, fictitious submissions as they want to in order to manipulate the results one way or the other. I submitted another empty survey this morning in the name of Thomas Gradgrind, parent in Manchester.
Those ultimately responsible for this bogus survey are the Education Secretary Justine Greening and her ministers. The DfE might be able to get away with a couple of rogue tweets but not a survey which is part of a consultation.
The survey’s a sham – it should be abandoned.
UPDATE 12.27 It appears Nick Gibb hasn't grasped the fact that if a school eliminates the attainment gap by selection, then there will be no gap to close. In a Commons debate yesterday he said:
'We know that grammar schools are vehicles of social mobility for the pupils who attend them, almost eliminating the attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers.'
Gibb preceded this remark by citing the recent ResPublica report on Knowsley:
'Reintroducing grammar schools is potentially a transformative idea for working-class areas'.
ResPublica's opinion was produced as evidence by several Tory MPs during the debate. But it's an opinion which is wrong as I explain here.
UPDATE 16 February 2017. The original article contained the DfE tweet of 21 November 2016. This has now disappeared from the DfE twitter feed. I have replaced the tweet with a quote from Justine Greening. I have referred to the tweet but can no longer link to it.