New research suggests there is “no evidence” selective school systems have a positive effect on pupil outcomes, and those who don’t get into grammar schools fare worse than those in areas without them.  The study shows that higher attaining pupils are 10% less likely to achieve 5 or more A and A* star grades at GCSE if they live in a selective area rather than a comprehensive area.

CF Chair, Dr Nuala Burgess, said, “This is a highly significant piece of research. Most importantly, it confounds all the assumptions about the benefits of grammar schools for higher attaining pupils. Most staggering of all, the findings show that pupils in selective areas, irrespective of whether they attend a grammar school, actually have less chance of getting top GCSE grades than equivalent pupils in fully comprehensive areas. Far from guaranteeing results, grammar school may actually be detrimental to high performers’ attainment.

“And more worryingly, because more pupils are affected, grammar schools also have a negative impact on the overall attainment of an area. Crucially, pupils in non-selective schools in selective areas perform worse at GCSE than pupils in comprehensive areas. Although some grammar school pupils might achieve slightly better than equivalent pupils in comprehensive areas, this benefit is cancelled out once the detrimental effect of grammars on pupils’ grades in non-selective schools is factored in.

“This research is going to make it harder to justify the continued existence of grammar schools in our state school system and even harder to justify the expansion of grammar schools. As the authors point out, a selective education system is highly unlikely to raise national academic standards.

“Grammar schools are an anomaly in our state school system. Their predominantly middle-class pupil populations are proof they have failed as engines of social mobility. This latest research now confirms that higher attaining pupils would be much better off in comprehensive schools.”

The research was featured in the Times, Daily Mail, and the Guardian. The paper, ‘How do academic selection systems affect pupils’ educational attainment? New evidence from an analysis of large-scale data on England’, Lu et al (2023)  can be read in full at this link.