Evidence check: Grammar schools Contents

4Resource sorting

Unintended consequences

45.There was broad consensus from the academic panel that—on balance—in areas with selective systems, children who do not pass the 11 plus do slightly worse when compared with comprehensive systems. Again, it is important to emphasise that the only evidence available is with regard to the historic system. That said, there is no widespread, representative, national evidence to the contrary. Dr Allen did note in evidence that “admittedly, the size of the damage to their GCSE outcomes is small”.82 The principal reasons for this discrepancy, we were told, relate to ‘resource sorting’, with grammar schools ‘creaming off’ teachers, pupils, and resources from local non-selective schools. Dr Allen explained:

The current selective systems in England [ … ] areas such as Kent or Lincolnshire or Buckinghamshire—have far more pronounced inequalities and access to suitably qualified teachers than do comprehensive or non-selective systems [ … ] Grammar schools are more likely to have fewer unqualified teachers, far more experienced teachers than in secondary moderns, more teachers with an academic degree in the subject that they are teaching, and less churn of teachers. This provides one piece of evidence as to why secondary moderns find it so difficult to function within a selective system.83

46.Professor Vignoles cautioned using historical evidence to inform a new policy, which “might look quite different [to] the grammar system of old.”84 She told us that every school might have an incentive to try to admit students by ability (under the new system), “in order to improve their intake and compete with their neighbouring schools”.85 Professor Vignoles warned that, where children are ranked by ability in a widespread way, where some schools have the most able and some the very least able pupils, “the consequences for the schools at the bottom of that system [ … ] would be dire.”86 She noted that a by-product of this system could very well be that many teachers would be less willing to teach in these bottom-rung schools, compounding the issues highlighted by Dr Allen with regard to ‘creaming off’ the best resources.

47.Additionally, the loss of positive peer-effects could take hold—situations where children struggling academically are ordinarily boosted by the presence of higher achieving members of their cohort, something which Professor Vignoles identified.87 We heard that these concerns could snowball further, with low-achieving students seeing their support reducing and their class-sizes growing; therefore guaranteeing the quality of their education falls.88 The Minister told us that, “in terms of what happens to the other schools in grammar school areas, the evidence is mixed”,89 but that a Sutton Trust report from 2008 indicated there was “no adverse effect on the non-grammar schools in [the studied] areas”.90

Resource implications

48.We asked the panel about the possibility of ameliorating such impacts of this system. We were told that this depends on whether these resources were perceived as finite, and what accountability structures were in place in regard to accountability. Professor Jesson emphasised the importance of interaction within local communities, a point with which the Minister agreed.91 Dr Allen said she would mandate every grammar school to:

take into a multi-academy trust three or so [non-selective schools], the correct number to be representative of the population. The advantage of that is they will have to bear the consequences of any of the negative impacts of resource sorting around finance and around teachers. Then we set up an accountability system that punishes them for standards in those [non-selective schools].92

49.The Minister was clear that, under the Government’s proposals, “it absolutely will be a condition of approval that they [grammar schools] have to demonstrate how they are going to help other schools in the area”.93 Moreover, these new or expanded schools would be required to collaborate with feeder schools in less affluent areas, in order “to ensure that all the children in that area have proper access to that grammar school, which of course does not happen in many areas at the moment”.94 We agree that this is a very sensible element of the policy which must be made part of any new scheme.

50.The creation of new grammar schools would have effects throughout the education system; whilst the Green Paper considers the system as a whole, the Government must look carefully at the consequences for school funding, the supply of teachers, and the overall health of schools in England. Specifically, alongside its response to the consultation process the Government must publish a thorough assessment of the impact of introducing greater selection on the wider school system, outlining all of the options considered.

82 Q3

83 Ibid

84 Q7

85 Ibid

86 Ibid

87 Q40

88 Q7

89 Q64

90 Q44

91 Qq 20, 83

92 Q23

93 Q83

94 Ibid

10 February 2017