1. Supporters of selection say that it provides a ‘choice’ of schools which is popular with parents but in reality this is only for the minority and reduces choice by denying parents the choice of a comprehensive school with a range of abilities. When all schools in an area are comprehensive, taking children of all abilities, all parents and children have more choice of schools. A well managed, properly funded comprehensive school, supported by the local community, working with parents, using technology and collaborating with its neighbours can offer choice and diversity within the school for all its pupils.
2. A Which survey in 2005 found that parents’ top priority was ‘a place for every child in a good quality school in their local area’(i). Similarly in 2011 parents surveyed reported a strong preference of good local schools (ii).
3. When only parents are asked there has been little support for schools selecting their pupils. The Audit Commission in December 1996 as part of work on admissions polled 1029 parents of secondary age children. Only 14% of them wanted selective schools (iii). Woods, Bagley and Glatter carried out extensive research into parental attitudes. They ‘did not find evidence of a widespread demand for selection and the reintroduction of grammar schools’(iv).
4. Polls of all adults can sometimes be reported inaccurately as polls of parents. A Times poll in November 2014 was reported as ‘Parents say yes to more grammars’ but in fact You Gov polled adults some of whom would not be parents. In any case as the Local Schools Network reported only 38% of those polled wanted more grammars in response to a ‘demonstrated local demand’ and in contrast 26% wanted all schools to stop selecting. As usual there was a difference in responses related to age, with the older age group more in favour of more grammar schools and a majority of younger people (who have more experience of comprehensive education) against (v).
5. Polling can give very different results depending on what question is asked. Furthermore some reports of surveys give a misleading picture. An Ipsos Mori survey of adults of whom 33% were parents found that 84% thought that a broad ability intake in a school is essential or desirable (vi). A survey for the Centre for Policy Studies in 2006 was reported as support for selection but in fact only 36% supported selection and 51% said children should be taught with others in mixed ability schools vii. A poll asking people about ‘abolishing’ grammar schools and providing more to give ‘parents choice’ got a big majority in favour of more grammar schools (viii). However a YouGov poll a few months earlier had found that only 20% of those polled said schools should be able to select all their pupils according to ability (ix). Similarly in a survey of British Social Attitudes only 14% of those surveyed thought schools should be able to choose those who to admit (x).
6. Some supporters of selection say that Ripon parents voting in 2000 not to change the admissions criteria of their local grammar school to admit pupils of all abilities is evidence that parents want selection. But in the ballot many Ripon parents did not get a vote, private school parents were over represented and the nature of legislation meant that that parents could not be given a plan for change as they would have been in the past when local authorities made changes to end selection. When parents have been specifically consulted by local authorities wanting to reintroduce grammar schools for example Solihull and Milton Keynes there has been overwhelming opposition.
i Which (2005) Which Choice Education. Which
ii Millar,F and Wood, G, (2011) A New Conversation with Parents, Pearson and Family Lives
iii Audit Commission (1996) Trading Places. Audit Commission
iv Glatter, R, Woods, P and Bagley,C. (1997) Choice and Diversity in Schooling, Perspectives and Prospects. Routledge
v Local Schools Network (2015) Only 38% support building new grammars.
vi Ipsos Mori ( 2009)
vii Blackwell, N, (2006) Survey in Three Cheers for Selection. Centre for Policy Studies
viii ICM (March 2006) for the National Grammar schools association
ix You Gov/Daily Telegraph (December 2005)
x NATCEN (2012) British Social Attitudes vol 28.