Comprehensive Future has researched the proportions of special educational needs (SEND) pupils attending grammar schools and non-selective schools and found that non-selective schools educate three times as many SEND pupils. While Grammar schools admit on average 4.3% SEND pupils, the proportion attending non-selective schools in grammar school areas is 15.5%.

Children in care are also underrepresented in grammar schools, with grammar schools in fully selective authorities averaging just two looked-after or previously looked-after children in each school. In the same areas non-selective school educate, on average, 14 vulnerable pupils. Sixty-eight of the 163 selective schools in England have no children in care on their school roll.

The data, based on a Freedom of Information request and DfE statistics, shows that grammar schools are not pulling their weight and admit far fewer SEND and looked after learners. As a result, non-selective schools in areas with grammar schools end up educating a disproportionately higher number of SEND and looked-after pupils than a typical comprehensive school.

Comprehensive Future’s SEND statistics have been added to our popular interactive map of grammar schools as part of the many useful facts about every grammar school in England. The map already highlights the low proportion of disadvantaged learners in grammar schools.

Comprehensive Future’s chair, Dr Nuala Burgess said, “What many don’t realise is that in spite of all the rhetoric about social mobility, grammar schools educate comparatively few disadvantaged pupils. As well as this uncomfortable fact, is the fact that selective schools also reject other vulnerable groups. Our figures show that only a handful of grammar schools admit 10% or more SEND pupils and that 17 grammars have less than 1% of pupils with additional learning needs.

“It would be a mistake to assume that all SEN pupils are lower attaining. This group is massively diverse and includes highly able dyslexic and autistic pupils, as well as other forms of neurodiversity. Einstein was a dyslexic and apparently hopeless at school tests, and Bill Gates has autism. It is highly likely that both men would have been rejected by an English grammar school.

“The data we have found shows that there are a few grammar schools with a relatively high proportion of SEN pupils, which makes us question why there are so few in every other grammar school? It would seem that the vast majority of grammar schools are making absolutely no effort to be inclusive. We wouldn’t allow any other school to get away with this kind of discrimination so why do we allow grammar schools?

“It is a fact that in areas which use the 11-plus to decide which type of secondary school children attend, a disproportionally large number of SEN pupils, children in care and disadvantaged pupils attend non-selective schools while advantaged, middle-class pupils attend grammar schools. There is something highly questionable about an education system which allows any school to reject whole groups of learners and that they should do so using a test for which there is no accountability and little transparency.

“It is positively Dickensian to support an education system which means that the poor and disadvantaged are taught separately from pupils who come from more comfortably off families. We do not believe that such a socially and educationally regressive approach to educating children is welcomed by the majority of parents.”

Facts about SEND pupils and Children in Care in grammar schools

  • Grammar schools admit on average 4.3% SEND pupils, the proportion attending non-selective schools in *grammar school areas is 15.5%.
  • 17 grammar schools admit 1% or fewer SEND pupils.
  • High-need SEND pupils require Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans to set out the support they need. 21 grammar schools admit 0 EHC pupils.
  • Typically non-selective schools admit 2% of statemented pupils, but grammar schools admit just 0.3% of pupils who require EHC plans.
  • 68 (of 163) grammar schools had no key stage 3 or 4 children in in the January census who were flagged as Looked After Children.
  • 74 grammar schools had no key stage 3 or 4 pupils who were recorded as previously looked after.
  • An average grammar school in a *fully selective authority will educate just 2 looked after, or previously looked after pupils, while neighbouring non-selective schools will average 14 of these pupils.

* Fully selective areas are those that educate 25% or more pupils in grammar schools and these are Bexley, Buckinghamshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, Medway, Slough, Southend-on-Sea, Sutton, Torbay, Trafford and Wirral.