Commenting on the Prime Minister’s education speech today, Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and Education Endowment Foundation said:
“I welcome the Prime Minister’s strong commitment to social mobility and the ambition of her agenda. She is absolutely right to want to address the educational needs of those on modest as well as low incomes, and we work with both groups through our programmes.
“The Prime Minister is also right to recognise that there is a serious issue about the education of highly able young people from low and middle income backgrounds. We welcome the expectation that grammar schools do more to attract disadvantaged pupils, building on proposals we made.
“Sutton Trust research has shown the existing grammar schools to be highly socially selective, mainly because of private tuition and prep schools for those who can afford them. The government should ensure that existing grammar schools get it right before opening more grammar schools.
“To address the attainment gap – at all levels – we need more focus in every school on what research shows works in improving standards of literacy and numeracy, addressing essential life skills and preparing young people to access higher education or apprenticeships. We also need much better data on attainment at all levels of family income. But above all, we need a focus on good teaching rather than structures.
“We also need a national drive to improve education for the highly able in comprehensives, backed by fairer admissions policies in urban comprehensive schools promoting ballots or banding to overcome selection by house price, backed by better advice to low income families on their choices.
“The Prime Minister is right to want stronger independent school engagement with state schools. I welcome her support for the Sutton Trust’s Open Access work at Belvedere. But rather than creating new untried free schools, the government should work with leading independent day schools so that entry is based on ability rather than ability to pay.
“On higher education, the Prime Minister is right to want to improve outreach by universities, and more support of state schools may help. But the government should as a matter of urgency revisit the scrapping of maintenance grants and consider means-testing fees if they want to improve social mobility.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
- The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 170 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to access to the professions.
- The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is a grant-making charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus Trust (now part of Impetus–The Private Equity Foundation), with a £125m founding grant from the Department for Education. The EEF is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. Since its launch the EEF has awarded £75.4 million to 127 projects working with over 750,000 pupils in over 7,500 schools across England. The EEF and Sutton Trust are, together, the government-designated What Works Centre for Education.
- According to the Sutton Trust / EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit, setting or streaming appears to benefit higher attaining pupils and, on average, does not appear to be an effective strategy for raising the attainment of disadvantaged pupils, who are more likely to be assigned to lower groups. The EEF is funding a trial, run by Prof Becky Francis at King’s College London, to investigate best practice in grouping students by attainment. More information can be found here.
- Poor Grammar, research from the Sutton Trust based on an analysis by Prof Anna Vignoles showed that less than 3% of entrants to grammar schools are entitled to free school meals – an important indicator of social deprivation – whereas almost 13% of entrants come from outside the state sector, largely believed to be fee-paying preparatory schools.
- Selective Comprehensives, another piece of research by the Sutton Trust, has shown the proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals at the top 500 comprehensives is 8%. Only 49 of the top 500 schools have free school meal rates higher than the national average of 17%.