Should we bring back grammars?




I found myself reading over many articles on the issue this morning, and just wanted to throw another voice into the mix.  I won’t say much, because better people have already said it better than I could – and I’ll link to them in a bit – but I want to highlight this one graph out of all the others.


Grammar schools entrench social division

The graph is taken from here.

It shows the following:

  • Wealthier pupils outperform poorer pupils
  • Attainment in London schools is, overall, better than anywhere else
  • If you’re poor, grammar schools lower your chances of success


Cast your eyes to the left of the graph – that’s where the least well-off live.  There are three scenarios shown, from top to bottom:

  1. Live in London
  2. Live elsewhere
  3. Live near a grammar school


Unless you’re wealthy, you’re better off living anywhere but near a grammar school.

In other words, grammar schools are not the engines of social mobility we have in the past – myself included – believed them to be.  They are engines of social division, for all but a lucky, lucky few.

Conversely, if you live in London, where the comprehensive school system is believed to have made the most remarkable gains in the past decade or so, then you will do better than ever; the gap’s still there, for now, but better than ever.

From this we might infer that the solution to social inequity is certainly not a return to grammars, as May and Greening would have you believe, but might lie in a determined effort to improve all schools, as championed by Gove and Morgan.


More on this

Chris Cook – Why not bring back grammar schools?

Jonny Porter – Grammars and the grain of truth

Natasha Porter – 5 reasons why a return to grammar schools is a bad idea

Toby Young – New grammars won’t do more for social mobility than comprehensives

Sam Freedman – Why grammar schools are not the real issue




About Kris Boulton

Teach First 2011 maths teacher, focussed on curriculum design.
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