Express exaggerates support for grammar schools while latest poll says backing has fallen

Janet Downs's picture
“YOUNG people want the return of grammar schools even though almost none of their generation have ever had the chance to benefit from going to one.  However, that did not stop the vast majority of people aged between 18 and 24 from saying that they would have received a better education if the 11-plus system was restored.”

Sunday Express 27 October 2013

“80%” of young people wanted existing grammar schools kept and new ones established, wrote the Express.   A YouGov poll on behalf of the National Grammar Schools Association (NGSA) showed young people felt they’d have had a better education if the 11+ was restored, the paper said.

So what did the YouGov/NGSA poll reveal?

58% of 18-24 year-olds said existing grammar schools should remain.   20% wanted them closed and 22% didn’t know.  53% supported the creation of new grammars in areas where there were none.  23% opposed setting up new selective schools and 24% didn’t know.

58% isn’t 80%.  53% isn’t 80%.   Neither of these figures is the “vast majority”.  And the poll took place in London which is not representative of the whole country. 

There was no question asking if 18-24 year-olds believed they would have been better educated if there was selection at age 11.

The YouGov/NGSA survey found support for existing grammar schools fell steadily among different age groups.  The over 60s were most supportive and young ones less so.  Similarly, support for more selection and new grammar schools declined across the generations.

This is hardly the ringing endorsement by young people for selection at 11 claimed by the Sunday Express.  Young people were less likely to support current grammar schools or the establishment of new ones than their grandparents.

The Sunday Express also wrote:

“A further YouGov poll, conducted in June, showed overwhelming support for grammar schools to be set up in Greater London, with 60 per cent wanting to see them returning to the capital.”

The Sunday Times poll was the only YouGov June survey I could find which asked about selective education.  The results were not as the Sunday Express reported.

Less than half (46%) of Londoners wanted more grammar schools; 17% said existing ones should remain but no new ones should be built.  16% wanted an end to selection altogether and for existing grammars to open their doors to all abilities.  20% of Londoners didn’t know.

46% isn't 60%.  Neither does it represent "overwhelming support".

Across the country 43% wanted more selection by ability; 19% would let existing grammar schools continue but wouldn’t allow new ones; 20% said they wanted selection ended and 18% weren’t sure.  Support for selection was lowest among 18-24 year-olds (35%) and 25-39 year-olds (34%).

According to a YouGov press release, support for new grammars dropped to 37% in October 2013.

It appears, then, that support for new grammar schools and increased selection is being exaggerated.  And young people are less likely than those with a bus pass to want to see a return of the 11+.
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