Focusing on grammar schools will not improve social mobility




The Tories love to drive forward a campaign that us backed by little evidence (just think back to that £350 million pounds a week for the NHS Brexit bus, or Theresa May’s recent ‘no-deal is better than a bad deal’ statement.) The government’s push towards the development of grammar schools is no different. 

Theresa May is pushing these plans for ideological reasons, and has no hard evidence to back up her claims, and if you examine existing research, it is clear to see that the figures are against her.

So why is social mobility important? The Labour party believes in a fairer Britain for all, one that works to ensure that all children, regardless of background, have equal opportunities. 

The Education Policy institute conducted a fantastic report  that examined the hard evidence behind these government claims that grammar schools provide a better education than non-selective schools, and that there isn’t a social mobility issue surrounding them. 

Representation of students from a lower income background can be seen through the allocation of free school meals, with only 2.5 percent of grammar school students entitled to these, whilst the number is 13.2 percent in all state funded secondary schools. The clear reason as to why these numbers are so different, is the significant under-representation of disadvantaged pupils in grammar schools. A main cause of this significant under-representation of disadvantaged pupils in grammar schools is that, by the time the ‘11 Plus’ entry exam (or equivalent) is taken, 60 per cent of the disadvantaged attainment gap – equivalent to 10 months of learning by this stage – has emerged.

 So do selective schools really produce students with higher attainment? The answer is no, if you compare high attaining pupils form non-selective schools, with those in grammar schools, there are five times as many high quality non selective schools as there are grammar schools. This means high attaining pupils perform just as well in high quality non-selective schools as selective schools. 

The evidence is clear, we need to focus on developing our existing schools, so that all children can benefit from a good education, fit for a modern day Britain. We do not live in a society that solely favours academic achievement, so why would we push for schools that focus solely on this? The report from the LSE has shown that the Labour sponsored academies programme has had a more positive impact on the attainment of disadvantaged pupils compared with the present grammar school system. 

Theresa May’s mission to lift the grammar school ban - that was put in place in 1998 so that this problem could be tackled - is a clear example of ignorance from the Tory government. I implore the government to take a step back, examine the facts, and work to provide an education system that is fair and effective for all.