Zahawi praises “fantastic” grammar schools

Speaking at an event to mark the launch of the DfE’s new Schools White Paper, Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi praised the “fantastic ethos” of grammar schools stating he wanted to spread their “DNA” throughout the education system. This take on selection was criticised by many people, with one teacher pointing out, ‘The DNA of grammar schools is excluding 80% of students. They have the same curriculum, sit the same exams, read the same books, have the same teachers qualified in the same places. The difference is that they exclude 80% of students before a single lesson is taught.’ Read more HERE.

Tory MPs lobby for new grammar schools

The Telegraph reported a plan by Tory MPs to create selective school pilots in Red Wall seats. “There is lots of enthusiasm on the back benches for selection as part of a wide-ranging education system,” one Tory MP told the paper. Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee, claimed it is “plainly absurd” that it is against the law to set up new grammar schools. Brady said, “It was in the Conservative Party manifesto of 2017 that we would lift the statutory prohibition on selective schools and it is long overdue for us to do so.”

It’s a sad fact that these MPs are ignoring all evidence and pushing for a policy that doesn’t work. A Department for Education spokesman explained the government’s current position: “Grammar schools are a valuable part of the school system. But there are no plans to permit the opening of new grammar schools.”  Read more HERE.

A million pound grammar school fundraiser

Altrincham Grammar School for Boys is looking to raise £1 million from parents and alumni to build new sports facilities. Most schools fundraising efforts are not quite so ambitious! However our new data project shows that 24% of the pupils educated at this school did not attend a state primary school but instead attended a fee-paying ‘prep’ school. This suggests many of the parents will be able to afford more than the usual pound or two spent in a fundraising cake sale. This fundraising project highlights the social inequality of grammar schools, but the Head is keen to point out his school’s financial problems. He says,  “We actually lag behind a number of schools in terms of the annual funding that we receive from the Government.” While it might be the case that grammars receive less funding than other schools this is because disadvantaged and high needs pupils trigger extra funding and grammar schools admit very few of these pupils. This school educates just 1.6% of pupils in receipt of Free School Meals compared to an area average of 22%. While the school is unlikely to receive much Pupil Premium funding it does typically receive £80,000 a year from parental donations. Read more HERE.

Did the Schools Minster read the evidence he cited?
The Schools Minister, Robin Walker, was asked a written parliamentary question about the effect of grammar schools on social mobility. He replied with comments praising ‘outstanding’ selective schools and then linked to 5 academic papers that ‘explore the question of the effect of grammar schools on social mobility’. CF have reviewed these papers and none of them suggest grammar schools are good policy. One paper states FSM high achievers are ‘significantly less likely’ to attend a grammar; another that grammars are ‘no better or worse’ than any school ‘once privileged intake is accounted for,’ while none of the papers show any evidence that selective education actually boosts social mobility. Perhaps Robin Walker cshould have read this evidence and used it in his reply? Read more HERE.
Grammar schools expand in Medway 
A gender imbalance in Medway grammar school places has led Medway council to run a consultation to change three single sex grammars to become co-educational. As part of this shake-up of secondary education they intend to increase the 11-plus pass percentage from 23% to 28%. It is interesting to note that the DfE say changing the gender make-up  of any school is a ‘significant change’ that legally requires full consultation, but boosting selection by 5% can simply get a nod through in a council chamber. As the National Association for Secondary Moderns points out, ‘There are many elements of selection which are completely unregulated – including how to select, what % to select and how to operate appeals. They are just left to the school to decide. Almost complete lack of scrutiny.’ Read more HERE.

£64 million spent to make grammar schools more inclusive, but they still admit low proportions of FSM pupils

Schools Week reviewed Comprehensive Future’s data on Free School Meal pupil numbers in the 22 grammar schools given Selective School Expansion Fund cash on condition they became more inclusive. They found that these grammar schools had fallen further behind on inclusivity.  
CF research shows that the schools receiving funding were far from typical secondary schools. The majority of these schools admitted between 10 – 24% of pupils from private schools and averaged just 5% of pupils on free school meals. On top of that, some 34% of their pupils travel to and from school every day from outside the local authority area. Read more HERE.

A Tale of Two Sisters and the 11-plus

“Two schools, one mile apart. Every morning, as we closed the front door behind us, my sister would turn left and I’d turn right.” This excellent New Statesman piece by Rebecca White describes the different educational opportunities offered to herself and her twin sister based on their results in the 11-plus. Read more HERE.

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