Grammar schools widen gap between rich and poor

New study demonstrates long-term harm to those who miss out on places

Grammar schools contribute to social inequality and lead to a widening of the income gap between rich and poor, according to new research.

The study represents the starkest evidence yet of the long-term harm suffered by those who miss out on grammar school places – as well as of the impact of selective education on the communities where it has been preserved.

It found that in areas with a grammar school system, top earners are likely to earn £16.41 an hour more than those on the lowest incomes, or the equivalent of around £30,000 a year based on a typical 35-hour week.

In those areas where the education system was fully comprehensive, the salary gap was just £12.33 – a quarter less. High earners from grammar school areas were better off by £1.31 per hour on average than top earners born in similar comprehensive authorities.

Researchers from the University of Bristol, the University of Bath and the Institute of Education, University of London, who carried out the analysis said that failing to pass the 11-plus left pupils at an “immediate disadvantage” in terms of their future earnings.

The figures – which challenge claims that grammar schools help boost social mobility – were based on the average pay of the top and bottom 10 per cent of the workforce among a sample of 2,500 people born between 1961 and 1983. It found the lowest earners from areas with selective schools received significantly less than those in non-selective areas.

Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol, who led the research, said the inequality could be explained by the quality of teaching.

“Selective schooling systems sort pupils based on their ability, and schools with high-ability pupils are more likely to attract and retain high-quality teaching staff,” Professor Burgess said.

“This puts pupils who miss out on a grammar school place at an immediate disadvantage. In addition they will be part of lower-ability peer groups, which also affects their chances of succeeding at school,” he added.

There are currently 164 English grammar schools which survived the drive towards comprehensive education in the 1960s and 70s. Kent boasts the highest number of grammar schools followed by Buckinghamshire and Lincolnshire, although there are significant numbers in Trafford, Birmingham and Essex. Nearly all London’s grammar schools were abolished, with those surviving confined to the outer boroughs.

Earlier this month more than half of grammar heads said they were preparing to revise admission procedures to increase the number of children from low-income families attending. Research by the Sutton Trust showed that just 2.7 per cent of places went to children receiving free school meals compared with 16 per cent in all secondary schools.

It followed growing criticism of the system, including by the Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw, who said grammar schools did nothing to promote social mobility, describing them being “stuffed full of middle-class kids”.

James Turner, director of programmes at the Sutton Trust, said: “Whatever your views on selection, grammar schools are a feature of our education system, so the priority must be to ensure they are opened up to bright pupils from low and middle-income backgrounds.”

The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is a strong supporter of the schools which achieve the highest levels of academic success and are massively oversubscribed. However, he was forced to block attempts to establish the first new grammars in half a century in Kent last year following legal advice from civil servants.

For the study, a local education authority was defined as selective if more than 20 per cent of its 13-year-olds were assigned their school place by selection. The researchers found that, while average earnings in the areas were very similar, low-paid women in grammar school towns were worst remunerated – the legacy of a policy under which more girls than boys went to secondary modern schools, it was suggested. The researchers analysed information gathered by Understanding Society, a study following the lives of people in 40,000 UK households.

A 2013 study by academics from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the University of Cambridge and York University found that more than four times as many of the 22,000 Year Seven entrants into grammar schools each year were likely to come from private schools, compared with those on free school meals.

A recent Freedom of Information request showed that leading grammar schools receive 14 applications for each place. Such is the competition that schools have grown increasingly concerned over the use of coaches to help children to pass selection tests, forcing heads to introduce so-called “tutor-proof” exams. Critics such as Fiona Millar of the Local Schools Network, however, questioned whether this was possible.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Network Manager - Oldham area - Up to £30,000

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

Teacher of special needs required for Burton on Trent

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Exciting Opportunity, Rand...

Behaviour Support Assistant

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Behaviour Support Worker Th...

Youth Worker / Teaching Assistant - Nottingham

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are looki...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home