Prime Minister Theresa May has signalled that new grammars are needed to stop selection via house prices, according to the Daily Telegraph.
It is unclear how one form of segregation based on house prices would be avoided by another form of segregation based on performance in a couple of tests at age 11. But the Telegraph is convinced selection at 11 will stop ‘rich’ parents dominating ‘top-performing schools’.
So where are these top performing schools dominated by ‘rich’ parents? The figures cited came from a Lloyds Bank survey of just 30 state schools in England with the ‘strongest’ GCSE results in 2015. These are schools where 100% of the 2015 GCSE cohort achieved the benchmark 5+ A*-C including Maths and English*. According to the Telegraph, parents have to pay £53,426 (17%) more than average house prices in ‘surrounding counties’ to live near these schools.
But there’s a flaw in the Telegraph’s claim that paying extra money for a house near these 30 schools would ensure eligibility. First, the child has to pass the 11+ because all these schools are selective. No amount of house price premium will get an 11+ failure through their doors. Second, 15 of the 30 are for girls only; nine are for boys. No chance, then, of a place for a child of the wrong gender. One of the girls-only grammars is a Roman Catholic school which means it selects three ways: ability, gender and religion.
Where do the 11+ failures in these areas go to school? Presumably their parents have paid the same ‘premium’ to live in the area. But there’s only a one-in-four chance of their children being selected no matter how much parents paid for their house. And if the children are the wrong gender or religion, then even those who pass the 11+ will have to look elsewhere if their parents want them to attend a grammar.
Presumably the unselected children attend schools deemed low-performing. This is highly likely since they’ve been creamed of high ability pupils.
Hype by estate agents and banks suggests parents must pay more to be near a ‘top performing school’. But that’s judging schools merely on results – and very high ones. 76% of England’s state secondary schools are good or better. It shouldn’t be too difficult to live near one. Unfortunately, some of the 76% have barriers to entry: ability, aptitude, religion, catchment areas and subtle deterrents (eg uniform cost, an ‘ethos’ which puts off parents of low-achieving children, hints that parents make regular ‘voluntary’ contributions). It is admission barriers which need tackling to ensure fairness in the secondary sector in England not suggesting even more obstacles by extending selection.
*There were actually 36 grammars where 100% of pupils reached the GCSE benchmark in 2015. It’s unclear why Lloyds Bank didn’t include these six in their analysis. I don’t know which six were omitted – my analysis is based on the rank order given inSchool Performance Tables. I simply took the first 30.