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September 16, 2016



My understanding is that May has not called for wholesale reintroduction of the 11 plus, but instead has called for limited selection on ability.

My village is between a posh successful town and a working class new town with low educational achievement. You can get to the good schools in the posh town, but it costs you as house prices are high. Or for one "state" school there is a payment option.

The schools in the new town are universally poor. For a bright child to swim against the tide of low academic achievement and permanent disruption is almost impossible. Surely it isn't asking too much to make one of these poor schools one that selects on ability, and maybe give some of these children the kind of opportunities that they currently have no way of accessing? I don't think those who don't go to this school could see their academic performance sink any lower.

gastro george

"For a bright child to swim against the tide of low academic achievement and permanent disruption is almost impossible."

Unfortunately, while that is the parental nightmare, the evidence doesn't support this.


"the evidence doesn't support this"

Can you provide a link to the evidence please?

gastro george

Chris Cook's report on Newsnight.

Richer children do only marginally worse in non-selective schools.

gastro george

Link fail, try this one.

gastro george

OK naked URL. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36662965


gg that link doesn't address the particular case I was making; in the new town there are no schools that get good results. Creating a grammar school will create an environment that allows some children from that town to get good results. It will do this by getting out of the school a considerable disruptive element who prevent others from getting a decent education.

May isn't suggesting carpet-bombing the country with secondary moderns, so the report on Kent is not valid.

Dave Timoney

@Dipper, what the Chris Cook data (and other studies) show is that grammar schools actually reduce aggregate performance - i.e. while a minority benefits this is outweighed by the decline for the majority.

In the scenario you give, the introduction of selection to one school would lead to a fall in performance across all of the other schools in the area, but this fall would exceed the sorting effect (i.e. putting all the smarter eggs in one basket).

The case for grammar schools must be not that a minority will benefit but that the majority will not be any worse off, but this is demonstrably wrong. We did the experiment and the aggregate performance of British schools was improved by the introduction of comprehensives.

Dave Timoney

Rather than arguing the case for aggregate efficiency (working class do better, middle class kids do no worse), perhaps the better argument for allocating grammar school places to the worst-performing in an 11+ test is ethical: that we should aim to rectify the educational disadvantages that take effect during the pre-school and primary years.

Of course, this is only a thought-experiment because in reality middle class parents would coach their kids to advantageously fail, or would desert the state sector for private schools and lobby for greater tax breaks to subsidise their "choice".

The irony is that in times past the state happily spent considerably more per capita on specialist schools that selected only a minority of failures. They were called borstals.


A2E sorry but the notion that performance would fall in the other schools in New Town is laughable. In terms of performance New Town has only secondary moderns. What it needs is a Grammar.


Of all the things that don't replicate when performed by people who are skeptical, stereotype threat tops the list. It's extremely non-robust.

gastro george

@Dipper - The argument being put forward by May that you can have grammar schools with no effect on other schools is transparently false. What the Kent statistics show is that if you introduced selection in your town, the grammar school results would appear to be better but would, in fact, be only marginally better for the same children if they had remained in comprehensive schools. In contrast, the other schools would have results that were much much worse than if they had remained non-selective.

gastro george

I'm quite interested in why May has gone for this in such a big way (apart from the obvious Brexit distraction).

I saw somewhere (but can't find the link) that grammar schools play well in focus groups, and that this might be another attempt to outflank Labour. If so, then I suspect that this might be an archetypal example of focus group failure - because the introduction of comprehensives proved very popular, as even Thatcher recognised.

Igor Belanov

@ gastro George

One of the only reasons I can think is that the education system is so chaotic and difficult to follow at the moment that they think that the reintroduction of grammar schools will provide more certainty for 'aspirational' parents that their kids are going to the 'elite' schools.


@gastro george. Yes I know what the Kent results say. I did read the link. The thing is when I apply it to New Town I just don't see how it can make things worse.

Secondary schooling in New Town is manifestly failing to deliver meaningful social mobility to the children of New Town. A grammar would offer some children a way out. To deny a grammar is to condemn the entire town to second rate outcomes.

Teresa May has offered a solution that will deliver results to some working class people. What would you do? All I've heard from the left is platitudes about "raising the level of all education" or "spending more on education" none of which will disrupt the carefully developed strata of UK education which lefties navigate for their own children so expertly.

Igor Belanov

Maybe New Town might be renamed 'Strawmantown'?


@ Igor Belanov - why? Its a real place. You are just denying its existence because it doesn't fit your preconceptions.

gastro george

"A grammar would offer some children a way out."

@Dipper - did you not read the relevant point. Those children that went to a grammar school would only marginally benefit from selection.

" ... none of which will disrupt the carefully developed strata of UK education which lefties navigate for their own children so expertly."

Are you trying to say that all lefties send their children to private school? Which would be a bit bizarre.


@gg I'm looking at a specific place with specific examples. People from NewTown do manage to get their kids into non-New Town comprehensives with good results. I've no idea how they manage to get their kids in, but good luck to them.

If a single school in New Town could be brought up to the standards of comps in Posh Town that would be a real achievement but in all likelihood that would only be possible by designating that school as a grammar and having selection.

Selection all ready occurs in many comprehensives. Our local maths specialist school selects on grounds of musical ability and sporting ability but not maths. We must be the only country in the world that does not have maths ability as a requirement for getting into a specialist mathematics school. Just about every other country has a way of selecting pupils with ability and fast-tracking them.

Of course not all lefties send their children to private schools, but many will carefully select good comprehensives and move to the relevant catchment area. That leaves behind a large number of people who by virtue of lack of funds are condemned to send their children to under-performing comprehensives.

The experience of Kent is not relevant as May is very clearly not recommending a return to a single secondary modern/grammar school model.

David Jones

Best research now, Chris, seems to be that stereotype threat doesn't exist, or is negligible. At least, when you claim flatly that it's 'real', you may want to hedge that quite a bit.





and more and more.


Dipper - so when, hypothetically, Newtown gets a grammar, what happens then? How do you stop those of the middle classes who can't afford the premium of living in Poshtown from sending their children to Newtown grammar and crowding out all but a handful of the working class Newtown kids? After all, they'll be able to afford the tutors to improve their chances in the exams. Or is your underlying argument the usual one for grammar-school enthusiasts, that what matters is a few of the working class "deserve" to get a decent education, but the rest can go hang?



In your example, or any specific example, it could be that gramars improve overall performance. The stats say that on average it doesn't.

Going on to your specific example. I guess about the top twenty percent of each of the existing schools would go to a grammar and the 80% from the school tha becomes a grammar would be distributed amongst the other. What the stats suggest would happen is that the top twenty percentwho who are now at a grammar would do a bit better than they otherwise would have. But the bottom 80% would do a bit worse - and overall achievment would fall.

There's nothing about your example that suggests it wouldn't be like that. The diea that the pupils left in the non grammars couldn't do worse is silly. People can nearly always do worse (or better).

You might make the value judgement that the top twenty percent doing better is more important than the bottom eighty percent doing worse, though.


Dipper, isn't the problem that nobody gives enough of a shit that the schools in Newtown are bad? There's no bad school in the country that can't be turned into a good school quite quickly by the right staff. Every school in Newtown could be improved markedly within 2-3 years, if there was the will to do it. Then no need for your grammar school solution.


The argument here has been made by others: a grammar school *requires* 3-4 not-very-good secondary moderns for the rejects.

If the grammar school and the 3-4 secondary moderns were all of high quality, what would be the point of having the grammar school?

And if the secondary moderns are not of high quality, that creates a two-tier system in which those who fail an exam at some point are doomed for life to poor education.

In practice grammar schools are no-fee tax-funded "public schools" for the upper-middle classes who want to give their precious a "leg up" over the "undeserving" children of "hoi polloi" but who can't quite afford Harrow or Rugby.

gastro george

@Dipper: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/sep/20/grammar-schools-play-europe-top-education-system-finland-daycare


May's Grammar Schools of today will be nothing like those of the 1950s on. Those latter schools had teachers with solid academic grasps of their subjects. Those teachers no longer exist and exam standards have to get lower and lower in maths and sciences to keep the pretence up. I experienced the former and my kids the pale imitation, in Bexley, which has 4 Grammar Schools today. There are no equivalents today of Secondary Moderns. There are no modern equivalent's of the Technical and Building schools. You have to tackle the problem of the non-selected kids wanting and needing vocational type schools and not pointless academic ones. There are no longer the jobs for academic skills in a market awash with graduates. There are loads of very good jobs for people who can actually do something.

UKIP policy is for Grammar schools to give hope to "working class" people that their kids might have a slight chance of a better life than them. It is pure politics that the Conservatives are copying - nothing to do with academic research on school types which no longer exist. As in the Referendum , economic arguments are not relevant to those voters,

The old style Grammar Schools achieved only 40% getting 3 "O" levels or more. This was probably that each had 5 streams of 30 kids. Those in the A stream got the 10 "O" levels and those "failures" in the E stream one or no "O" levels. So the inequality reduction argument is really only about the 20% of the 20% who get an education on par with the best public schools. We all knew know what the Magna Carta was.


"If the grammar school and the 3-4 secondary moderns were all of high quality, what would be the point of having the grammar school?"

Overall a Grammar and its non-selective pair form a comprehensive school across two sites, but with peer level management and separate targets rather than hierarchical management with a single aggregate target.

From a systems point of view a specialist will always outperform a generalist. That’s the very basis of the division of labour. It’s pretty clear that a Grammar school has the capability of generating a very large number of exam passes with not an awful lot of resources. The buildings can be poor. The school can be small. The teachers are barely adequate. Yet with near military processes, the output is huge given the resources deployed.

Ensuring that the non-selective part of the pair has more resources than the Grammar to deal with the wider range of educational and emotional needs they will be faced with. Issues a Grammar school can largely avoid via selection. And there needs to be sharing of resources between the sites — timesharing the expensive sports resources, for example.

The movement between the schools needs to be more fluid so that it is more like streaming than ‘one chance with no hope of parole’. Perhaps promotion and relegation for the first couple of years until the options are chosen.

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