More grammar schools 'likely to widen the attainment gap between rich and poor'


Bad news for grammar schools: a new report warns that creating more is likely to widen the attainment gap between rich and poor children. It also adds that there is no evidence they will raise overall educational standards.

Research by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) shows that an expansion of grammar schools in areas which already have a large representation of selective schools is likely to lead to "small but growing attainment losses" for those not attending selective schools.

This would be greatest among poor children, who are already under-represented at grammar schools.

(David Davies/PA)

The gap between children on free school meals (FSM) achieving five A*-C GCSEs, including English and maths, and other children is 6% wider in selective areas than in non-selective areas, the study found. FSM pupils in selective areas who do not attend grammars perform worse than the national average.

The EPI found that, at a national level, there did not appear to be a significant attainment penalty from not attending a grammar school.

David Laws, EPI chairman, said: "It is clear from our analysis that creating additional grammar schools is unlikely to lead to either a significant improvement in overall education standards or an increase in social mobility.

School lunches.
(Melanie Stetson Freeman/AP)

"Indeed, without far more success in getting poor children into grammar schools, the total attainment gaps between poor children and richer children could well increase."

It looks as though it might be an uphill battle for grammar schools. The EPI warned that it would be "very challenging" to significantly improve grammar school access for poor children as 60% of the attainment gap takes place before the age of 11, when children sit the entrance test.

The resources which might be used to create additional grammar schools could be deployed to help create high-attaining non-selective schools, which are much more socially representative than grammars, it suggested.

GCSE students.
(Steve Parsons/PA)

The report, Grammar Schools And Social Mobility, focused on attainment at Key Stage Four (GCSE level), using data from the school performance tables, the School Census and the Department for Education's national pupil database. They will continue research to see if the trend continues at Key Stage Five.

Education figures urged the Government to abandon its "disastrous" and "misguided" plans in the wake of the report.

A Department for Education spokesman said that it would ensure new selective schools prioritise the admission of pupils from lower income households or support other local pupils in non-selective schools to help raise standards. "Our proposals are not about recreating the binary system of the past, which is what this report is based on."