Comprehensive Future writes to the Grammar School Heads Association
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More selection? The evidence against piles up.
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A Tale of Two Counties – reflections on secondary education 50 years after Circular 10/65
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Our Campaign

What we want to change

Our aim is a comprehensive secondary school system with fair admissions to all publicly funded schools and an end to selection by ability and aptitude.

We want to end entry tests by ability and aptitude.

We want to see all schools bound into the School Admissions Code in the same way, regardless of whether they are maintained schools, academies, free schools or CTCs

We want to see the administration of all admissions to publicly funded schools managed by the local authority even if the criteria are set by the school. This would relieve all schools of the administrative burden and bring more openness to the procedure.

Any decision to introduce banding, ie admitting children to reflect the ability profile, should be made by the local admission forum and should apply to all schools in the area using the same method. The test on which banding is to be based should be taken by all children in the primary schools so that banding would reflect the ability profile across the area and not just those who apply to the school.

The current situation

We don’t yet have a fully comprehensive school system in England. Around 20% of English primary children face entry tests on ability to move on to secondary school. Selection still exists in a quarter of English local authority areas.

Increasing numbers of schools now have the freedom to set and manage their own admissions. The current government has weakened the School Admissions Code, which sets out the rules about how schools manage their oversubscription criteria, and local authorities have a diminished role in overseeing how admissions work in their areas. We believe this will lead to more unfairness and segregation.

Why we want to change

Most parents want a good local school with fair admissions and a balanced intake. All the international evidence suggests that high quality all-ability schools with balanced intakes are the best way of ensuring that every child receives a first-rate education.

Schools that use selective entry tests, or other opaque methods of covert selection, can damage other local schools by distorting their intakes.

Admissions criteria should be objective and transparent, allow parents to exercise choice fairly and judge their chances of success when applying.

Selective entry tests mean the majority of children are rejected and can start their secondary school careers feeling like failures. But human potential is not fixed and no one can predict how a child will develop in their teenage years. Every child should have the chance to develop their potential without any prejudgement of what that might be.

The statistics show that the intakes of selective schools are skewed towards better off children, whose parents can often afford private tuition that can help to pass entry tests. So selection at 11 hinders social mobility and leads to more segregation in local communities.

What we’re already doing

We lobby decision makers, provide information to the public and the media, and support local campaigns

We lobby decision makers based on the evidence we gather from our own surveys, from academic research and from the local stories we receive from supporters, parents, governors, heads and teachers. We provide information to the public and the media through our website, pamphlets and public meetings. We support local campaigns on admissions and put campaigners in touch with each other.

How you can help us

We need your support: please join us. And, if you can, send us a donation.

Contact your MP pressing for an end to selection and a fairer admission system.

Send us information about school admissions in your area – you should be able to get information about this from your local authority website. Ask to see any reports your local authority has done on school admissions. Find out if you have a local admissions forum. Look at the school adjudicator website to see if there have been objections about local schools.

If your area is affected by selection send us your personal report of its effect.

You can also follow us on Twitter.

News + updates

  • March 6 2017 The Budget announced £320 million for the expansion of the free school program, with the chancellor claiming the new schools will be free to offer selective education.
  • February 13 2017 The Education Select Committee says “Government has yet to prove the case for opening a new wave of grammar schools”
  • February 2017 The Grammar Schools Heads Association newsletter gives hints of what is perhaps to come as the Government implements its plans for more grammars. Amazingly the heads say that ministers and officials agree with them that there are a lot of people, who are philosophically opposed to selection, who keep saying it damages the education of other pupils but present little evidence!  The Telegraph claims that we may have a national test and a selection team is now set up at the DfE headed up by ex grammar pupil Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s right hand man. The BBC reports that the DfE will respond in the Spring to the thousands of responses to the Green Paper.
  • January 2017 The Annual Report of the Chief School Adjudicator again has evidence of the complexity some parents face as more and more schools become admission authorities. Time for a review.
  • December 2016  School Dash extends its analyis of the effect of grammar schools. The Education Policy Institute has produced more evidence of the weakness of the case for more grammars.
  • September 2016 – The opposition to selection grows and grows – from John O’Farrell, David Willetts and Michael Morpurgo. Fiona Millar devastates the case for ‘tutor proof tests’ and the Institute for Fiscal Studies provides more evidence that selection is not the way to get a 21st century education system.
  • August 2016 More and more articles on why selection is a bad idea have appeared in recent days, from Fiona Millar in the Guardian, Michael Wilshaw in the TES and Jeremy Warner in the Telegraph.  Theresa May should be taking notice! The current debate about grammars is resulting in useful data illustrating how selection does not help social mobility for example from Education Datalab, Full Fact  In the Guardian Fiona Millar makes the case for stopping schools managing their own admissions.
  • July 2016 Concern is growing that if Justine Greening is ‘open minded’ about more grammars ways will be found to introduce more grammars as free schools. The Conservative campaign to bring in more grammars is relaunching.  But the case against will be set out again and again.
  • May 2016 Government adviser and one of the architects of Progress 8 has said that despite corrections the final version will still give grammars a ‘head start’. Tim Leunig was speaking at a recent meeting of secondary moderns reported in the TES on 13th May.
  • January 2016 HMCI , Sir Michael Wilshaw, speaks up for comprehensive education.