Support for new grammar schools has dropped from 40% in May 2015 to 38% today, according to the latest YouGov poll. This is far lower than the 'seven in ten' claimed by the Telegraph, Sun and Mail on 6 August. Rather than support for new grammars going ‘through the roof’, as The Sun claimed, it’s actually slipping.
The proportion wanting to retain existing grammars but allow no new ones remained the same: 17%. The proportion wanting existing grammars to become comprehensive dropped slightly from 25% last year to 23%. The number of 'don't knows' rose from 16% in 2015 to 22% today.
35% believed grammar schools were good for social mobility; 27% thought they made no difference; 20% didn’t know and just 19% thought they were bad.
When parents were asked whether they would send their child to an existing grammar if their child passed the 11+, then the overwhelming majority, 67%, said they would. This is the dilemma that selection presents: at age 11 your child will be publicly judged by the school they attend.
In areas where selection still persists, there’s a perception that grammars are the ‘elite’, first-class schools and non-selective schools are second class. This perception sticks to the pupils – grammar kids, good; non-grammar kids, not-so-good. It’s hardly surprising that when secondary-age children are labelled ‘clever’ or ‘not-so-clever’ based on where they go to school that parents would consider accepting a place at the school perceived to be for the ‘bright’.
But a grammar school place is only offered to those who pass the 11+ – and there’s the rub. In the days when the 11+ was mandatory, fewer than 25% ‘passed’. 75% of pupils, therefore, were judged as failures at age 11. It was the realisation that children only had a one-in-four chance of attending a supposedly ‘elite’ school that caused parents to lobby for comprehensive education in the late 60s and early 70s: the comprehensive system was deemed to be fairer.
There are those who argue that comprehensive education has failed – that English children would perform better if divided into ‘bright’, ‘not-so-bright’ and ‘dim’ at age 11. It’s ‘common sense’ , they claim, that each child should attend a school which, it is argued, would better prepare them for their future lives (decided at the end of primary school). This myth is debunked in our book The Truth about Our Schools: Exposing the Myths, Exploring the Evidence. There’s a chance to win a copy of our book – see here for details. But hurry, the offer only lasts one month until 16 September 2016.