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The Politics of Grammar Schools

(706 Posts)
GiftedPhoenix Sun 30-Nov-14 10:08:24

I thought some mumsnet readers would be interested in my latest post, which is about grammar schools, especially their record in admitting high-attaining children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The selection issue has been bubbling away in the media and this looks set to continue next week, as the Conservatives come under increased pressure from within their own party to include a commitment to new grammar schools in the Tory Election manifesto.

I wanted to explore what progress our remaining 163 grammar schools are making towards 'fair access', so providing a benchmark against which to judge political claims that they might be engines of social mobility. I'm not concerned with research on their historical record in this respect, but with evidence of recent reform.

anothermakesthree Sun 30-Nov-14 12:51:53

I just don't think it is possible to have a sensible discussion about social mobility and selection, without discussing all means of selection; religious, financial, geographical, academic and performing arts. Grammar schools are just a small part of the whole selective education pproblem (or not if you support it).

TalkinPeace Sun 30-Nov-14 17:57:01

Please could you ask MNHQ to retitle your thread
The politics of Secondary Modern Schools
as that is the underbelly that promoters of segregated schooling choose to ignore

smokepole Sun 30-Nov-14 18:23:29

Talkin. As you know a Secondary Modern school, can still be a good school and enable its pupils to achieve high standards. Talkin Whether you believe in selective or non selective education, I think it needs to be said that don't castigate a school just because it happens to be non selective in a grammar area.

In hindsight there was nothing wrong with my DDs1 Modern school. (she still got to her 1st choice University) through like many I was worried and believed my preconceptions about modern schools based on my own modern schooling. The fact that DD1 was happy at her school, made it the right school for her .

Talkin also knows that in East Kent or Kent in general, grammar schools are part of the furniture and will never be abolished. I think one of the reasons why Michael Fallon has given support to the expansion of grammar school education in his constituency with the "Weald of Kent" satellite in Sevenoaks is to counter act any potential swing to Ukip in his area.

MillyMollyMama Sun 30-Nov-14 19:24:35

Your figures are wrong for Bucks in your blog because you have not read the latest out of county percentages attending Bucks Grammar schools. These can be 40% plus so you cannot look at those attending Bucks grammar schools and assume they are a percentage of the Bucks school population. They are not. In the Aylesbury Vale area, only 16% of pupils gained a grammar school place this year before appeal. There is lots of press coverage of this in the Bucks Herald news on line. You might like to read it. This figure is likely to increase after appeals. The newspaper article wonders why Aylesbury Vale has such a low pass rate, but it is only the Head of Chesham Grammar that suggests that Aylesbury Vale children nay not attain so highly in their schools as children elsewhere in the county, or the vast numbers coming into the grammar schools from other counties.

There was a lot of pressure on the new Bucks 11plus exam to deliver FSM children into the grammar schools. This has plainly not happened and coaching and private education are still delivering the better off to the grammar schools. It is about time all children were coached in school, preferably at after school clubs. At least then there would be no excuses for under achievement. The new test is supposed to be based more closely on the curriculum but that makes it even more open to tuition in the opinion of some. A lot of this would not matter if there were first class secondary modern schools to go to, but lots of these are RI. Few are good on a consistent basis. The Guardian did a good article on the Bucks situation recently.

opalfire Sun 30-Nov-14 22:06:54

Thank you for the post GiftedPhoenix. Your blog was an interesting read, particularly if, like me, you live in an area that still has grammar schools. It inspired me to do a little rough research of my own. Not exactly random double blind but still!

I looked at the league tables by LEA in the Daily Telegraph ranked by GCSE results and A level results. The results are per head across the authority. I cross referenced it with a Wikipedia list of existing grammar schools. The top LEAs for GCSEs and A levels were dominated by areas where grammar schools still exist like Sutton, Bromley, Kingston, Barnet, Trafford and Redbridge. As the results are per head it suggests that all pupils do better, not as quoted by HMCI Wilshaw in your blog that the grammar 10% do well and everyone else does really badly. It would reinforce local anecdotal evidence here in Altrincham. Not all children take the entrance exams, and not everyone passes them, so those children go to excellent local comprehensive schools. Children who 'just fail' the exams are top of the comprehensive school and have all the confidence that entails, instead of being just average if the grammar pupils hadn't been 'creamed off'. So we have an extra group of children who are the 'top performers' in their school who get excellent results too.

More interesting reading is a report on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's website, 'Poorer children's educational attainment: how important are attitudes and behaviour? It tries to explore the reasons why poorer children perform less well than wealthier ones. One quote from page 7 says 'Nearly one fifth of the gap in test scores between the richest and poorest children is explained by an apparent ‘direct’ link between the childhood cognitive ability of parents and that of their children.' So in addition to the schools themselves we need to look at the child's home environment. Schools are not the sole determiners of success.

Rootandbranch Mon 01-Dec-14 09:04:21

Three children in my ds's class have passed the grammar school exam for the local super selective.

All three have had 1 year+ of paid tutoring, plus daily parental input - essay writing, maths practice etc.

Three of the local private prep schools have big banners outside listing the number of grammar school places their pupils got this year.

The bottom line is that grammar school primarily intake represents the efforts and income of the parents, and is not representative of the full range of potential in primary schools. There are many very clever children in state schools who will never get a grammar place because they will always be behind equally clever children who've had far more educational input - paid and parental.

There is absolutely no way for state schools to make good the gap in attainment which is created by parental input and tutoring.

Rootandbranch Mon 01-Dec-14 09:07:35

"The top LEAs for GCSEs and A levels were dominated by areas where grammar schools still exist like Sutton, Bromley, Kingston, Barnet, Trafford and Redbridge."

These things will be distorted by the fact that the SE has
- the highest per-capita income of the UK
- the highest number of graduate parents
- high numbers of immigrants from countries where education and learning is hugely valued, and children are strongly supported at home.

Rootandbranch Mon 01-Dec-14 09:08:34

Oh, and about 1 in 5 children in London attends a private prep/secondary school.

Also 1 in 4 children are tutored.

anothermakesthree Mon 01-Dec-14 09:11:37

In reality the 'effort and income' of your parents will have a positive effect on all areas of your life, not just getting into a grammar.

catslife Mon 01-Dec-14 09:59:34

"The top LEAs for GCSEs and A levels were dominated by areas where grammar schools still exist like Sutton, Bromley, Kingston, Barnet, Trafford and Redbridge."
I agree with Rootandbranch looking at the league tables by LEA may not be helpful. You need to compare grammar school results with comps with a similar profile of pupils elsewhere in the UK (if these areas exist). As well as the results by percentage what are the value added scores for grammar schools?
Also how do you take into account that these figures will be distorted by pupils from other LEAs, who live close to grammar schools, commuting to these schools?

farewelltoarms Mon 01-Dec-14 12:02:22

Also those cited boroughs (Barnet etc) have many, many pupils coming from outside the borough to their selective schools. There aren't many at QEB living around the corner...

TalkinPeace Mon 01-Dec-14 12:08:27

There is a data set for cross border traffic on school places.
Kingston per se is nothing special
but the fact that it has a couple of highly selective schools
and kids in London get free bus transport
means that selective schools in the Capital effectively cover the whole city.

Elsewhere in the country we have the joy of deregulated bus services so that parents have to pay hundreds of pounds per year to get their children to other than the local school.

opalfire Mon 01-Dec-14 12:41:45

Hi catslife. I was looking at results by LEA because I wanted to compare the results by 'system'. ie how do the overall results, on average for ALL children in a system that is 100% non selective compare to the overall results in a system where some go to grammars and some to secondary modern schools. Total results for 'comps only' compared to total results for 'grammar+secondary mod'. Without doing lots of personal research, the tables roughly reflect the AVERAGE results for the whole LEA whichever school the children have attended. On the surface it looks like areas where the children, on average, get the best results happen to have grammar schools. Might be a causal link, might not. Maybe the children in the top set at secondary modern do better than they would in the middle set at a comprehensive. I can't find any proper peer reviewed data about that.

I think anothermakesthree is spot on with her comment that 'effort and income' of parents has a huge impact. The Joseph Rowntree foundation paper I quoted at first has the same findings. What happens at home in terms of reading bedtime stories, eating as a family and encouraging homework and reasonable bedtimes has a massive impact on outcomes. As does parental intelligence. Schools can do their best but I don't think they can make up for everything.

TalkinPeace Mon 01-Dec-14 12:53:58

It is impossible to make assumptions comparing LEAs in London because each LEA is so small that the flow of pupils across boundaries dwarfs differences in the admissions system.

To compare Grammar / non Grammar areas, the only true samples are Kent and Lincolnshire - because they are full counties that operate a segregated system
and are geographically large enough that there is minimal cross border traffic in much of the LEA

All other Grammars are surrounded by other types of schools or - as with Bucks - are in a county so small that cross border traffic has more of a statistical effect than the 11+

catslife Mon 01-Dec-14 14:01:23

"I was looking at results by LEA because I wanted to compare the results by 'system'. ie how do the overall results, on average for ALL children in a system that is 100% non selective......."
But Opalfire even in an area without grammar schools there are independent schools that select pupils on the basis of academic ability/ income so there is no such thing as an area that has no selective schools at all!

opalfire Mon 01-Dec-14 14:30:56

Does anyone know if the LEA league tables include the results of the independent sector or just the state sector?

GiftedPhoenix Mon 01-Dec-14 14:53:11

Thanks everyone for these really interesting responses to my post - - which is attracting a great deal of interest.

The aspect of this that really fascinates me is whether there is a risk of backlash from the parents of relatively advantaged applicants, worried that they are being deprived of a place.

After all, the Admissions Adjudicator only intervened in the King Edward's Foundation case because a parent objected.

I wonder whether the 40% of grammar schools not actively considering adjusting their admission arrangements to prioritise disadvantaged learners are wary of provoking this kind of response.

It's possible that an oversubscription criterion might be acceptable to most, but more might object to the idea of lowering the 11+ pass mark at the margins to select in more disadvantaged candidates.

One can see how such a policy might stick in the craw of those who would otherwise be keen supporters of removing the ban on new grammar schools.

Would any Mumsnet readers be prepared to defend that position, as I have to admit that I find it hard to empathise?

TalkinPeace Mon 01-Dec-14 16:05:08

the Sunday Times figures are from incomplete data anyway : the most recent official data is 2013
but the by LEA in all its glory is on the DFE page and can be downloaded and sorted to your heart's content

TalkinPeace Mon 01-Dec-14 16:06:52

I live in a county with no Grammar Schools
if any arse tried to introduce them round here I'd be manning the barricades against them.

There are so few grammar schools in the big scheme of things, why should we care about their results?

opalfire Mon 01-Dec-14 16:47:16

Hi Gifted. What happened with the Admission's Adjudicator at King Edwards? I haven't read anything about it?

opalfire Mon 01-Dec-14 16:49:44

Talkin Peace. If someone set up a Grammar school in your area you would be under no obligation to send your children there.

TalkinPeace Mon 01-Dec-14 16:59:04

Indeed not,
but if one of the schools in the area became a grammar school, the school next door would, by default become a Secondary Modern.
No Thank You.

The damage wreaked on the UK economy by the poison of Grammar Schools - that technical and vocational skills were for failures is still being undone.

Telling kids at age 11 that they are not good enough for the best education demeans the skills that we need to get the economy making things.
Hence why kids do not try.
Hence why immigrants come in to take those jobs.

Rootandbranch Mon 01-Dec-14 17:02:55

"You need to compare grammar school results with comps with a similar profile of pupils elsewhere in the UK (if these areas exist)."

Impossible to do this.

There are stats showing the number of 'high achieving' children at all schools, but 'high achieving' is a wide category which includes those children who have all 5 'c's in their SATS as well as those children working at level 6 in maths and literacy.

All the families I know who have entered their children for exams for academically selective schools are very proactive educationally and most parents are graduates.

Even the fact of having to put a child forward for selection 'selects out' certain types of families.

gardenfeature Mon 01-Dec-14 17:09:42

"if any arse tried to introduce them round here I'd be manning the barricades against them" I will join you!

"If someone set up a Grammar school in your area you would be under no obligation to send your children there." My G&T top 1% DS wouldn't get in because he has dyslexia and is pants at maths. However all his fellow G&T group debaters and top set English peers would disappear to the Grammar. His friend who is G&T at maths might be left behind too because he is pants at English. Clearly not a good system!

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