‘Pupils from the poorest families are TWICE as likely to get into Oxbridge if they attend a grammar school, report finds,’ says the Daily Mail in its article summarising an opinion piece written by former Department for Education civil servant, Iain Mansfield, published by HEPI today.
'Grammar schools are not full of rich children – with almost half of pupils coming from homes with below-average incomes,’ the paper says. The Mail's education editor doesn’t seem to understand the difference between ‘below-average’ and ‘below-median’.
The paper says the report debunks ‘Left wing myths’ spread by ‘a fierce Left-wing campaign’ against grammar school expansion spearheaded by Melissa Benn, one of the founders of this site.
HEPI director, Nick Hillman, former Special Adviser to David Willetts when he was Minister for Universities and Science, told the Mail: ‘The debate on grammar schools has become very one-sided. But the full evidence is more nuanced and shows some pupils benefit a great deal.’
Some pupils may ‘benefit a great deal’ (a huge one-third of a GCSE grade in each of eight GCSEs, Mansfield says) but many do not. Judging schools on exam results and how many enter highly-selective universities is a narrow measure which diminishes and downgrades the achievement of the majority of children. Perhaps the debate on selection would be even more nuanced if consideration was given to how well schools prepare pupils for equally important pathways such as vocational and technical.
And could it be that the debate has become 'one-sided' because the weight of evidence is overwhelmingly against selection until at least upper secondary level (age 15-16)?
Unsurprisingly, the Department for Education has seized on the report by one of its former civil servants to support its Selective Schools Expansion Fund.