The I’s Padraic Flanagan cites findings from our Gaps in Grammar report.
Grammar schools are no better for the brightest pupils than good comprehensives, according to new research which casts doubt on the government’s claim that selective education aids social mobility.
The Sutton Trust, an education think-tank, is publishing new analysis on entry rates to grammar schools which shows that, on average, bright pupils do just as well in the best comprehensives as they do in grammar schools.
Their research also reveals how ethnic background plays a significant role in grammar school entry, with disadvantaged Indian pupils four times more likely than disadvantaged white British pupils to attend a grammar school.
It also finds that pupils from families who are “just about managing” – or Jams – are also significantly under-represented at grammar schools. White, working class youngsters are the least likely to attend a grammar school, it adds.
In response to the findings, the charity is urging the government to make sure the admissions processes of the 163 existing grammar schools in England are fair, before their capacity is expanded.
The Trust’s chairman, Sir Peter Lampl, said: “Today’s research raises concerns about the government’s plans to use new grammars as a vehicle for social mobility. We need to get existing grammars moving in the right direction before we consider expanding their number.”
The “Gaps in Grammar” research highlights how ethnicity plays a key part in whether pupils get into grammars. It reports that disadvantaged Chinese pupils are fifteen times as likely than disadvantaged white British pupils to attend a grammar school.
Disadvantaged black pupils are now more than twice as likely to attend grammars as in 2012, but are still also significantly under-represented, say researchers. A pupil at a preparatory school is ten times more likely to get into a grammar than a pupil on free school meals.
The research, which also looks at GCSE attainment for pupils at grammar schools, confirms that while grammar school pupils do score slightly higher at GCSE, it concludes that much of this can be explained by prior levels of attainment.
The Trust is calling for grammar schools to make efforts to encourage and prioritise pupils from low and middle income homes to apply. To provide pupils with a level playing field, all candidates should get a minimum ten hours preparation before admissions tests.
The Trust also wants the government to establish a “highly able” fund in comprehensive schools, to improve social mobility and boost the attainment of highly able pupils.
Sir Peter added: “We know that pupils from the poorest homes are significantly under-represented in grammar schools.
“Today’s research tells us two new things: that under-representation is significantly higher for white and black working class children than it is for those from Chinese and other Asian communities.
“We need to get existing grammars moving in the right direction before we consider expanding their number “We can also see that those from families who the Prime Minister is concerned about are ‘just-about-managing’ are also much less likely to gain a place than their better-off classmates.”
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