Selective schools have been a longstanding controversial topic in England, and one which has led to new scrutiny in light of Prime Minister Theresa May’s intention to allow the establishment of new grammar schools. Our research in this area has been highly influential in the public debate, and has provided a robust evidence base on the impact grammar schools have on disadvantaged pupils, the school system and social mobility as a whole.
The findings have added to the growing body of literature showing that children from both disadvantaged and ‘just about managing’ families are significantly under-represented in grammars, and entrants from independent prep schools are over-represented. Much of the higher attainment record of selective schools can be attributed to prior attainment of entrants, and highly able pupils do just as well in top comprehensives as in grammars. The Sutton Trust believes that grammar schools should not be allowed to expand unless they can truly demonstrate a track record of success for greater numbers of disadvantaged students.