IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Are grammar schools good for social mobility?

25 February 2020, 4:00 pm–5:15 pm

Grammar school

This talk will bring together leading experts, commentators, policymakers and politicians to consider the best available evidence on the topic and consider policy options for the future.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities


Thatcher Room
Houses of Parliament
1 Parliament Street

Despite being relatively few in number, grammar schools remain a prominent topic in education policy debates. While some see them as the answer to Britain’s stalling social mobility problem, others argue that they only exacerbate the issue.

This event is hosted by the new Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO) at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at the University of Bath. The talk is chaired by Lucy Powell MP.


4pm – 4:05pm
Welcome and introduction
Lucy Powell MP

4:05 – 4:15pm
Who gets into grammar schools? 
Professor Lindsey Macmillan (IOE)

4:15pm – 4:25pm
What are the costs and benefits of selective systems? 
Dr Matt Dickson (IPR)

4:25pm – 4:35pm
Selective secondary education and progression into higher education
Dr Queralt Capsada-Munsech (University of Durham)

4:35pm – 4:45pm
What do cohort studies reveal about grammar schools, higher education, and social mobility? 
Professor Alice Sullivan (IOE)

4:45pm – 5:15pm
Why are grammar schools still so popular?
A panel debate with Lucy Powell MP, Nick Hillman (HEPI), Natalie Perera (EPI), and Iain Mansfield (Policy Exchange). Chaired by Professor Nick Pearce (IPR) 


About the Speakers

Lucy Powell MP

Labour and Cooperative MP at Manchester Central

Lucy was the first female Labour MP elected to represent a Manchester constituency. Since her election, Lucy has campaigned hard against the Government’s cuts to Manchester’s public services, the privatisation of the ambulance services and the bedroom tax. She has been a passionate advocate of better childcare provision, help for small businesses and more apprenticeships for young people. She is also conducting an inquiry into how to reinvigorate politics and increase voter turnout locally.

Dr Matt Dickson

Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath

Matt leads the programme of research on widening participation in higher education. His current projects examine the earnings return to undergraduate and post-graduate degrees, the role of further education in progression to higher education and the impact of early health on later educational and labour market outcomes. 

Professor Lindsey Macmillan

Director at Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO)

Lindsey's research considers the role of early skills, education, and labour market experience in the transmission of incomes and work across generations. She has published widely on topics relating to educational inequalities, including the impact of selective schooling systems on social mobility, understanding the improved performance of London pupils, and the characteristics and outcomes of those who under match in higher education.

Lindsey is the Director of the new Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO), focused on identifying and reducing structural barriers to opportunities across the life course.

More about Professor Lindsey Macmillan