Friends of Grammar Schools was set up in order to support the work of our existing grammar schools and to make the case for selective education. Grammar schools in England are some of the best performing schools across the country, but are also the most poorly funded.
Critics of academic selection often base their objections on the education system of the 1950s/60s when secondary modern schools provided a limited and often second rate education for those who did not attend grammar schools. Others argue that today’s remaining grammar schools have become bastions of social privilege.
Friends of Grammar Schools aims to make the case for selective education using the most up to date data available. It is not just grammar schools which top the league tables, but selective authorities as a whole, which means the combination of grammars and non-selective schools has resulted in higher standards across local education authorities (LEAs) for all children, not just those in grammar schools. For example, in Bristol, which operates a fully comprehensive system, 59.0% of all pupils achieved 5 A*-C grades at GCSE (including English and Maths) in 2015/16. By contrast, Trafford, which is a selective LEA, the figure was 75.0%₁. This evidence shows that results achieved by selective areas disprove the argument that grammar schools in some way damage the quality of other schools nearby. If anything, they seem to raise the standards of other schools in the area.
Evidence has shown that parents will go to great lengths to secure a place for their children at good state schools, often paying a substantial house price premium in order to ensure a place within the catchment area. The Telegraph reported in April 2014 that parents were prepared to pay a premium of up to 22%, whilst the Independent reported in August 2014 that parents might pay a premium of up to half a million pounds to live close to one of the top 30 state schools in the country. Therefore, if children are lucky enough to have parents who can afford to buy a house in a desirable catchment area, they will have the opportunity to attend a good state school. This “selection by house price,” as described by the Prime Minister Theresa May in September 2016, means that children from lower income households are much less likely to find their way into a good state school.
Most people now accept that the comprehensive experiment has failed many children, particularly those living in inner cities, and will acknowledge that social mobility has deteriorated since the abolition of most of our grammar schools. In recent years, there has been a reluctance to look with an open mind at the lessons which could be learned from selection, however it is welcome that the new Government under Theresa May is currently looking into the expansion of selective education across the country₂.
For more information and statistics surrounding the debate on selective education, please look at our facts page.
₁ For raw data tables for the 2015/16 academic year, please click here.