From Kent and Bucks, more evidence of the need to end selection

In Kent, Bucks and in a speech by Michael Wilshaw the evidence continues to pile up about the need to end selection.
In almost a valedictory speech to the Festival of Education Michael Wilshaw, who does not support selection at 11, drew attention to the attainment gap between FSM and non FSM children in what he referred to as some of the wealthiest parts of the country. Of the five worst he listed three are fully selective areas. Kent has a gap of 34 percentage points, Buckinghamshire 39 and Reading, as he said ‘ a whopping’ 40 percentage points – all far in excess of the national gap of 28.

Furthermore he drew attention to the problems of teacher recruitment with reference to selective areas. He referred to a grave situation in secondary schools in Kent and Medway. He said ‘The problem in Kent is compounded by selection. As you know, the proportion of FSM eligible children attending selective schools nationally is only 3%, way below the national figure of 15%. …Yet many of the good and outstanding schools in Kent are grammars and, according to research from Education Datalab grammar schools in this area are more likely to attract and retain many of the best teachers. As a result, secondary schools in Kent with the most disadvantaged children have more unqualified and less experienced teachers. They are also less likely to be judged good or outstanding for teaching, learning and assessment.’ Datalab reported in June on inequalities in access to teachers in selective areas.

Meanwhile in Kent the Education, Skills and Employment Select committee of the County Council, recognising the enormous social division in secondary education, has produced a 101 page report ‘Grammar schools and Social Mobility. It is a very useful source of evidence of the problems selection creates.

In its submission to the committee the anti selection campaign the Kent Education Network said – ‘Grammar selection is socially divisive, has historically created no significant upward social mobility, exposes children to unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety, and redirects significant teaching and economic resources away from those most in need. Grammar schooling is effectively a state benefit with an entry system that results in that benefit being most-often handed out to those who are already socially and economically secure. It is still within our power to oppose this injustice. We ask that readers help us put pressure on KCC to consider the abolition of the Kent Test. Our children are already tested relentlessly. Why burden them with another test that produces no socially-beneficial outcomes and disadvantages able people who already labour at a disadvantage?’

Sadly the committee did not consider this obvious option. Its terms of reference were constrained to looking at how the proportions of disadvantaged children in grammar schools could be increased, so avoiding considering the obvious solution of abandoning selection. Clearly Kent shows the divisive effect of selection. 2.8% of pupils in Kent grammar schools claim free school meals, compared to 13.4% in the non selective schools. For pupil premium the figures are 6.3% and 26.9% respectively and for children in care it is 0.1% compared to 0.9%. The report was detailed in its analysis, drawing heavily on the work of the Sutton Trust, which aims not to end selection but find more ways of getting disadvantaged children into grammar schools. The committee came up with 16 recommendations including more outreach, familiarisation sessions and easier transport.

Meanwhile in another selective area – Buckinghamshire, the campaign group Local Equal and Excellent produced a report showing how socially divisive selection is there. Using FOI information the group has shown that British Pakistani children, who form the largest ethnic minority cohort in the county, had a pass rate of 8.6 per cent in 2014 and 10.9 per cent last year, compared to 19.4 per cent and 21.1 per cent for white British pupils. These findings have been taken up by two members of the House of Lords, Lord Ouseley and Lord Stevenson in questions to the Government.

In response the Government has said – The School Admissions Code requires school admission arrangements to be ‘fair, clear and objective’. It further requires that ‘admission authorities must ensure that their arrangements will not disadvantage unfairly, either directly or indirectly, a child from a particular social or racial group’.
Those who consider an admission policy, including a selection test, to breach the School Admissions Code can submit an objection to the independent Schools Adjudicator. If the Adjudicator agrees that the policy is unfair or otherwise breaches the Code she can require schools to amend their admission arrangements.’

Local Equal and Excellent have sent their findings to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

So more and more evidence emerges of the damaging effect of selection , surely time to end it?