Grammar schools should be ‘phased out’ as they damage social mobility, says study

'Social segregation experienced by children in selective areas in England - and the damage to social cohesion that ensues - is for no clear gain'

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Tuesday 27 March 2018 13:10 BST
Theresa May defends grammar school plans

The Government should “phase out” grammar schools as they do no better in terms of pupil achievement than non-selective schools while “endangering” social cohesion, according to research.

Pupils at selective schools achieve around the same GCSE results as their peers at non-selective schools - once background and higher prior attainment are taken into account, a study found.

Academics behind the Durham University report argued that increasing selection would be dangerous for equality - and instead the existing 163 grammar schools should be “phased out”.

The study comes after Theresa May’s proposals to lift the ban on creating new grammar schools were dropped in the wake of the general election result.

But the existing grammar schools in England are still allowed to take on more pupils – and a number of selective schools are planning to expand by opening satellite sites.

The study, which used government data on more 549,203 pupils in England in 2015, looked at information on their attainment, school and background.

They found grammar schools in England take around 2 per cent of pupils who are, or have been, eligible for free school meals - a key measure of poverty, compared with 14 per cent nationally.

The findings, published in the British Journal of Sociology of Education, also show that grammar school pupils are less likely to have special educational needs, less likely to speak English as an additional language, and are more likely to live in wealthier areas.

Professor Stephen Gorard, of Durham's School of Education, said: “Dividing children into the most able and the rest from an early age does not appear to lead to better results for either group.

”This means that the kind of social segregation experienced by children in selective areas in England, and the damage to social cohesion that ensues, is for no clear gain."

The report added: “The policy is a bad one and, far from increasing selection, the evidence-informed way forward would be to phase out the existing 163 grammar schools in England.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said: “There is a wealth of evidence that selection at 11 works against the government's stated ambition of improving social mobility.

“Creating new grammars schools is not the best way to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Instead, greater investment in high quality early years education would have a bigger impact on life chances; 11 is too late to bridge the gap.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We want every child to receive a world class education and to give parents greater choice when it comes to picking the school that's right for them - grammar schools are a part of this.

”Around 60 per cent of these schools already prioritise admissions for disadvantaged children and we are continuing to work closely with the school sector to widen access further.“

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