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New analysis - Grammar schools in England

(220 Posts)
IntheMotherhood Tue 27-Mar-18 09:55:11

There's been quite a bit of engagement from various MNs recently over disproportionate focus on % A*/As league table and what this does to providing an actual education to our children.

There's also been discussion on super selective schools, specifically grammars and the continued obsession on 'getting in' being a pinnacle of 11+ academic ambition for many families.

Does it really make a difference if your child is of high prior attainment? Does the individual perceived benefit(s) of going to a Grammar outweigh the larger social disbenefit(s)?

Thought this new analysis published online today in the British Journal of Sociology of Education might be of interest.

Make yourself a cuppa and enjoy.

"....Using the full 2015 cohort of pupils in England, this article shows how the pupils attending grammar schools are stratified in terms of chronic poverty, ethnicity, language, special educational needs and even precise age within their year group. This kind of clustering of relative advantage is potentially dangerous for society. The article derives measures of chronic poverty and local socio-economic status segregation between schools, and uses these to show that the results from grammar schools are no better than expected, once these differences are accounted for...."

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Notenoughsleepmumof3 Tue 27-Mar-18 12:23:34

I heard this yesterday day as well. It's a good study. I have one DC in a local super comp in London and another in a grammar. The differences at our particular schools are marginal. Both are diverse ethnically and socially. The results among the top students are similar. The comp is great and massive. You have to be very self-sufficient and an independent learner from the beginning to do well there. The grammar is small and has better pastoral care which was needed for my other DC. Both have value depending on the child IME. Kids do learn and need different things and approaches to achieve their best selves. I also work in a school with very deprived kids where we as a community are really trying to raise their attainment and aspirations, but it does always feel like an uphill battle.

HPFA Tue 27-Mar-18 12:50:02

Second report in a couple of days - good for us opponents although it won't persuade those already in favour.

Quite interesting that it mentions the benefits of children mixing with a wider range of peers. I've always been slightly puzzled by those who insist that their bright children must at all times be surrounded by similar peers. How many people in the workplace are surrounded at all times by their intellectual peers? Can you expect never to be bored? Will you never have to slow down your own pace to account for your colleagues? Will you never have to find a way of explaining something to a colleague who doesn't understand things as quickly as you do?

IntheMotherhood Tue 27-Mar-18 14:57:35

Thanks notenoughsleep that's good to hear that your experience confirms there's marginal difference but each environment suits your child.

Same thing puzzles me too HPFA.
Reasons given whenever I ask people that question is because: they don't want DC (who was clever at primary school) to 'always be the cleverest in the room'; and that pace of class is quicker with only similar bright peers as 'everyone gets it first time'.

I get that that makes sense to set Maths and Languages etc but to provide a totally separate state funded elite education facility?

I'm not sure what that's actually inculcating in terms of tolerance and mindset.

Also this view isn't representative of everyone who makes the choice of grammar...and most people are only trying to make the best of the system they have access to. sad

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Farfallina123 Tue 27-Mar-18 15:59:02

Yes - really interesting study, following hard on the heels of the UCL IOE report:

Without wanting to fan any flames, it is interesting that the independent school sector doesn't seem to want quantify their value added. I am aware of the University of Durham report: although increasingly this seems to go against the trend of research in the last two years of selective intake resulting in high attainment.

I don't have a beef wrt to how parents choose to educate their children. But it seems independent schools are lagging way behind the state sector in reporting progress and value. The majority of independent schools select for high attainment, and then they celebrate the high attainment. The cost benefit/measure of value is wholely missing. Given some of these schools are now sponsoring state schools and given some of these schools are educating very clever kids, it feels like there is a gap in critical analysis and accountability across the whole independent sector.

While the DoE does publish progress measures for independents schools at A level (they don't at gcse because many schools take IGCSE) these reporting measures are never, ever used by the independent schools

IntheMotherhood Tue 27-Mar-18 19:26:45

I agree farfallina I think the independent sector also needs to have clearer accountability mechanisms too. There's more variation in practise for sure.

I think indies should publish their attainment scores with a filter by prior attainment (like state schools), so stakeholders can see the direct relationship between public exam scores and the ability range it works with. It's a simple input / output metric.
Indies should also be held to account with a value add metric too.

I don't think indies make the most of developing other metrics that reinforce their ethos or brand. Co curricular offering is a huge draw for people preferring indie.

I have no beef between state and private per se - that's part and parcel of our market economics and ultimately indies are not using state funds.

I do have beef with the use of state funds for an elite education system that only educated 2.6% of kids on FSM.
I do have beef with horrible perverse incentives the accountability system causes to look shiny and starry at the expense of doing the right thing by a young person e.g Jm69 post and all this other culling practise.

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ChocolateWombat Tue 27-Mar-18 20:11:11

The reason many people want their kids in selective schools, state or Independent, is because they prefer their children to be educated with those socially similar to themselves, who they view as less disruptive. Of course it's not very PC to say this, so people speak in terms of children of high ability doing well together - what they really mean, is well behaved children from families 'like us' doing well.

People will go to great lengths to avoid certain areas or schools with lots of children from certain areas - it's not always about moving to selective schools, but those much mentioned leafy Comps, where the ability range will be less wide, but still comprehensive, but the price of housing limits the numbers of people 'not like us'. Perhaps people are especially keen to do this when many Comps increasingly used mixed ability teaching, so avoiding those in the bottom sets, or more associated with poorer behaviour is more difficult.

fishingaccident Tue 27-Mar-18 20:17:04

I think most independent sector parents wouldn't want the type of testing you'd need to do to show academic progress etc. Most are very happy to avoid SATS and wouldn't be happy to have them introduced. The independents all build their value proposition differently and a lot of it isn't about academic success.

Lupiform Tue 27-Mar-18 21:50:13

I think indies should publish their attainment scores with a filter by prior attainment (like state schools), so stakeholders can see the direct relationship between public exam scores and the ability range it works with. It's a simple input / output metric.
Indies should also be held to account with a value add metric too.

This is the very reason I have sent my child to an independent school. SATs has been a bloody nightmare with the endless focus on exams. DD has been getting full marks in the continual bloody rounds of practice since September and she is bored out of her mind, having always previously adored school. I cannot wait for her to head off to her (highly academic) secondary where she might actually learn something and get to take some joy in learning instead of practising things she knew three or four years ago. I do want academic success for her as I know she is capable of it, but I also want her to just not be bored and actually enjoy school. She is far from the only child who is very very bored this year. Genuinely don't care about 'people like us', btw, and am not sure they are like me anyway.

Lupiform Tue 27-Mar-18 22:02:50

Also, in highly selective schools, whether state or independent, the bar on GCSEs may simply not be high enough to show value added. I know they have the grade 9 thing now, but if you have a bunch of kids who would have mostly scored top marks in SATs or whatever other measure you want to use, and they then mostly go on to score top marks in GCSEs, they have all made average progress on paper. GCSE marks will not show you the extra stuff that someone may have encountered as a result of wider opportunities and the ability to teach not purely to the curriculum.

MiddleagedManic Tue 27-Mar-18 22:05:45

I went to both, comprehensive for a few years with disruptive idiots not wanting to learn and a grammar with people who did. Learning was far better in the grammar because of the approach to learning. I don't know how this is handled in comprehensives these days, but I am worried about the disruptive kids at secondary that DS finds boring to be in the same class as now in primary.

HPFA Tue 27-Mar-18 22:12:42

Lupiform Whilst there may be some truth in this GCSEs are the only measure we have at the moment. I don't think 80% of us should be asked to accept our children being labelled as "less clever" on the basis of hypothetical "higher benefits

SATS have become a ridiculous monster, that's certainly true.

Lupiform Tue 27-Mar-18 22:32:14

I actually think that full grammar areas are getting it wrong re the 80%. It is different in my area - there are two highly selective grammar schools (one boys and one girls) within reasonable reach and no other options apart from independents, most of which are highly selective, so in fact the normal schools really are reasonably comprehensive and have a wide spectrum of attainment (and if I could have got my daughter into the one I really loved but which I live a bit too far from I might not have bothered with the exams). The super-selectives draw from a very wide area so maybe one or two children in a class max might go to them. I do agree that creaming off the top 20% is not actually very productive (probably minimally productive for the 20% which is far too wide a band and actively harmful for the rest, many of whom may just be late bloomers or have other talents).

SATs has been genuinely awful and poor DD hasn't even taken them yet. She has got full marks in about 9 out of 10 of the practice papers and she does not need any more practice. She didn't do this much practice for the far harder school entrance exams she sat and passed! It is even worse for the children in my DD's highly academically and socially mixed school who are getting eg 4 out of 40 on practice papers. What this is supposed to be helping them with I genuinely cannot imagine, on either end of the scale. It is making all of them miserable, even the ones in the middle who might need a bit of practice to attain the required standard in some areas. I'd like to see SATs abolished entirely. It is currently just a measure of a) intake and b) teaching to the test.

Lupiform Tue 27-Mar-18 22:34:37

PS by highly selective, I definitely don't mean a school taking the top 20%. Those schools should certainly be showing good progress.

HPFA Wed 28-Mar-18 07:48:47

Generally on Mumsnet people seem to be happier with superselectives than they are with fully selective areas. I remember someone once started a thread wanting Tiffin to change admissions to be more of a "local grammar" than a superselective and a whole load of people replied that they were quite happy for the school to stay as it was, since they felt it had much less of an impact on the local comprehensives.
My memories of DD's SATs are that it was a massive waste of time for all. She seemed to do endless papers but was never given any actual teaching that might have improved her scores - the idea seemed to be that repeating the tests would do the job by itself. She has few fond memories of Year 6.

TammyWhyNot Wed 28-Mar-18 08:58:12

I do think a lot of Grammar-place chasing is driven by memories of comps in tne bad old days. In my pre-child 20s I used to travel into many comps and think there wasn’t one I would send a child of mine to. Now, in a dodgy area of London I have a choice of several great schools and kids in two comps that do really well by students of all abilities. With good behaviour, too.

No comparison with 25 years ago.

Lupiform Wed 28-Mar-18 10:41:50

She seemed to do endless papers but was never given any actual teaching that might have improved her scores - the idea seemed to be that repeating the tests would do the job by itself. She has few fond memories of Year 6.

This is just what we are finding and I doubt DD will remember Y6 fondly either.

Clavinova Wed 28-Mar-18 11:46:38

I skip-read the report and noticed this about half-way down;

Of course, grammar schools are not the only kinds of schools in England (or elsewhere) that have heavily stratified intakes. Faith-based schools, fee-paying schools and even the most popular comprehensive schools can create as big a problem of skewed pupil intakes

I also googled the author of the report and he says this;

"Similarly, there should be no single-sex and co-educational schools in the same system. There should be no difference between schools in terms of their faith-basis or more simply no faith basis at all.

And, "Schools should not select by attainment or aptitude"

So that cuts out half the schools in London, half the non-grammars in Kingston Upon Thames (including two highly prized, single-sex Catholic schools and a high-achieving girls' comprehensive) and the school HPFA's dc attends.

He also suggests banding/lottery (to negate the effect of house price selection), free buses to out-of-catchment schools for those who cannot afford the fare and no schools with a sixth form near schools without one. A bit like Hampshire then, but with no Independent schools, free bus fares, and Thornden School would have to mix up its intake with Crestwood Community School (2 miles away) - on a lottery basis grin

JoJoSM2 Wed 28-Mar-18 14:49:11

IMO, the whole debate misses the point. Attainment amongst 15-16yo is higher in many countries with fully selective systems and there's more social cohesion too.

As the article quotes, there are more ethnic minority pupils in grammar schools than in comprehensives - hardly screams on privilege, doesn't it? But it does reflect cultural attitudes to education.

Tbh, to raise attainment of children from certain backgrounds, you'd need to give the whole families a complete brain/attitude transplant. Begrudging able children the choice of a grammar school is completely irrelevant.

HPFA Wed 28-Mar-18 15:08:24

Attainment amongst 15-16yo is higher in many countries with fully selective systems and there's more social cohesion too.

Do you have the links for that?

IntheMotherhood Wed 28-Mar-18 15:10:18

As the article quotes, there are more ethnic minority pupils in grammar schools than in comprehensives - hardly screams on privilege, doesn't it? But it does reflect cultural attitudes to education

JoJo I think you're right that this may reflect cultural attitudes to education but not quite sure what that might or might not say about 'screaming privilege'? Do you mean lots of white kids = privilege?

Which countries are you referring to that have fully selective systems and higher attainment at 15-16yo?

I think the whole point of the debate is to unpick whether state investment in grammar expansion is the right policy for the UK's very limited pot of education funds.
Grammars are asking for top ups anyway, for those who have ability to pay, which might be one way to keep this parent choice on the table if there is localised demand.

Sounds like the author has quite radical views, which have been left out of the report!

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TalkinPeece Wed 28-Mar-18 15:11:46

Toynbee surely wink
Free buses would be nice though.

JoJoSM2 Wed 28-Mar-18 16:20:16

In terms of attainment, have a look at the Pisa study - tests are regularly carried out in all developed + some other countries and the UK doesn't exactly shine.

IntheMotherhood, I'd say privilege in the UK is more associated with white UC and MC backgrounds. I've never heard of people viewing ethnic minorities as privileged.

I actually think that having grammars is bette than having catchements/admission areas where school selection boils down to being able to afford a house near your desired school. That system is more like what you find in the US which I'd say is a lot more divided than the UK.

For comparison, I am Eastern European and grew up in a country with a fully selective system (even in communist times it was fully selective). If you ask most people there, they would say social classes don't exist (it was a new concept to me when I moved to the UK). There are no property price differences between different parts of town (as no one has a concept of somewhere being more UMC/posher) and you apply for any school you like thereby not contributing to any areas becoming more or less desirable for families, more or less expensive and the area generally more divided.

As much as I agree that doing away with independent, grammar, religious etc schools + introducing lottery instead of catchments could increase social cohesion in the UK and be a good thing, I think the concept is a bit of an ideological pie in the sky that goes against human nature.

TalkinPeece Wed 28-Mar-18 16:31:44

^ Pisa study - tests are regularly carried out in all developed + some other countries and the UK doesn't exactly shine.^
PISA needs to be taken with a big pinch of salt

as countries decide which schools go in
countries can decide not to go in
countries do not get asked the same questions

eg China submits Shanghai and Beijing, but no rural deprived areas OR the kids who are live in those cities but cannot go to school there

Grammar schools do not work
it really is that simple

HPFA Wed 28-Mar-18 16:58:36

PISA results do not by any means show an advantage for selective schools:

Singapore, the top performing country is selective but of the other countries in the Top 10 many of the countries are non- selective (might even be all of them as some of them I don't know - however Japan, Canada, Estonia, Finland and South Korea are all non-selective)

As to the UK we are actually slightly ahead of France (selective) when averaged out, and not hugely different to Germany and the Netherlands.

PISA may very well be imperfect, but as far as I know it's the only system which compares attainment at 15 over different countries. So I'm not sure where the claim that selective countries have higher attainment has come from.

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