IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Grammar schools: selective by definition

21 April 2017

Alice Sullivan grammar schools

Dr Alice Sullivan, from the IOE's Centre for Longitudinal Studies, comments on the government's new grammar schools plan, stating that they are "by definition selective" and will "never be the solution for average or below average kids".  

According to Dr Sullivan, the idea of grammars being rebranded as an engine of social mobility is "very strange" because it goes against the huge body of evidence that demonstrates grammar schools do nothing to promote social mobility. Dr Sullivan explains that the government is well aware of this evidence but is disregarding it.

She raises the point that it is incredibly difficult to give everyone the chance to go to a grammar school when the entrance involves a selective exam. Parents who have the resources will, quite naturally, do everything they can to get their children into that school. One way to get around this could be to have a lower pass mark for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but Dr Sullivan says that this would bring about numerous unforeseen consequences.

England has a long-standing problem with its poor basic skills in literacy and numeracy and fares badly in international comparisons. As the majority of children will not go to grammar schools, Dr Sullivan argues that the government's efforts would be better spent focusing on getting good graduates into teaching and making sure that it's a successful profession. Evidence shows that the most successful factor to pupils' learning is good teachers, regardless of the type of school.  

Watch: BBC News

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