Grammar schools benefit some pupils but the majority do worse

Published: 16th Sep 2016

In brief

Claim

Grammar schools don’t benefit most pupils.

Conclusion

The advantage for pupils who attend grammar schools is outweighed by the disadvantage for those who don’t.

 

Grammar schools benefit some pupils.

 

The evidence suggests pupils who get into grammar schools do better than they would under comprehensive education, but the majority who don’t get in do worse.

Claim 1 of 2

“Children, if they are in a class with their own ability, are likely to hit off each other and do better as a result”

Quentin Letts, 15 September 2016

“All the evidence demonstrates that grammar schools will benefit a limited few but will not benefit others and do not raise standards overall.”

John McDonnell, 15 September 2016

The evidence suggests pupils who get into grammar schools perform better than they would under comprehensive education, and pupils who don’t perform worse.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, “there is robust evidence that attending a grammar school is good for the attainment and later earnings of those who get in”.

The IFS cites Northern Ireland, where the expansion of grammar schools in the 1980s raised exam results among those pupils newly able to attend them.

A major piece of research for the Sutton Trust found that “the majority of studies seem to find that pupils who attend grammar schools do better than equally able pupils in comprehensives”, although it didn’t endorse those findings without reservation.

Running their own analysis, the researchers found “a small positive advantage” in GCSE results among grammar school pupils, but said there were “good reasons to be cautious of describing this as a grammar school ‘effect’”.

And raising standards among pupils who attend grammar schools isn’t the same as raising standards across the board. “There is repeated evidence that any appearance of advantage for those attending selective schools is outweighed by the disadvantage for those who do not”, says Professor Stephen Gorard of Durham University. This is echoed by the IFS.

 

This factcheck is part of a roundup of BBC Question Time. Read the roundup.


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