Disadvantaged children further disadvantaged by selection, FullFact found.

Janet Downs's picture
"All the evidence blows grammar schools out the water. Kent still operates a selective system and all the evidence shows that the educational outcomes are worse for poorer students than they are in somewhere like London where you don't have endemic use of selection."

Owen Jones, BBC Today Programme, 11 November 2013, quoted by FullFact.

FullFact investigated the claim and found the statement to be true:

1         Only 3% of pupils in grammar schools are eligible for free school meals (FSM);

2         Children who’ve attended independent schools are four times more likely to go to grammar schools than FSM children.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (ISF), wrote FullFact, found FSM children were less likely to go to grammar school than their equally-qualified peers.  This held true even if the children came from a primary school with more high achievers in Key Stage 2 Sats but which had more pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

But did the small number of FSM pupils who entered grammar schools do better in their exams than pupils in comprehensive schools?   The answer was No.   FullFact cited Financial Times journalist and number cruncher, Chris Cook, who found those disadvantaged children performed worse than pupils educated in areas without selection.

Despite this analysis, the clamour to reintroduce selection is growing louder fed by claims that grammar schools gave a leg-up to bright working-class children (usually boys) fifty or sixty years ago.  But that was a time when examinations were only available in grammar schools – secondary modern pupils (the majority) left school at fifteen with no qualifications.  At a time of full employment this didn’t pose a problem.   Social mobility was fuelled more by men* earning enough to buy their own homes and join the property-owning class together with a large number of white-collar jobs requiring few, if any, qualifications.  Such employment represented a step-up the social ladder.

All schools today offer examinations – few 16 year-olds leave school without qualifications.  So the stalling of social mobility has more to do with unemployment, low wages, a decline in basic-qualification jobs, a lack of life-long learning and training opportunities, and difficulties in getting on the housing ladder.

Support for selection is declining as generations pass – younger ones, despite the inaccurate claims in the Sunday Express, are less likely to support a return of grammar schools than those who are retired according to YouGov.

"Grammar schools do not aid social mobility. Stop this deluded thinking."

John Harris, The Guardian, 11 November 2013, quoted by FullFact


*It was difficult, if not impossible, for a woman to obtain credit fifty years ago.
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