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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Thursday 29th June 2017

Forget grammars – let's have more 'Gromps' (comprehensive grammars)


I felt a twinge of disappointment on hearing about the government’s decision to shelve its grammar school plans.

I went to the sixth form of a grammar – William Ellis in North London, which is now non-selective – and before that I went to two middling comprehensives and failed all my O levels, apart from one. Had I not retaken my O levels and got into William Ellis, I might not have ended up at a good university.

I would not want to deny to other children the opportunity I had or one I might easily have chosen for my own children, had I not succeeded in setting up the West London Free School.

Most participants in the grammar school debate refer to "the evidence" as if it was unequivocally on the side of the opponents, but that is not the case.

As Theresa May has pointed out, children on free school meals perform better in selective schools, on average, than they do in non-selective schools, and that remains true if you control for prior attainment.

But the difficulty with increasing the number of selective school places as a solution to the problems identified in this week’s Social Mobility Commission report is that there are not that many of these children.

At present, just under half of England’s 163 grammar schools give preferential treatment in their admissions arrangements to applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds, yet less than 3 per cent of those who get in are on free school meals and very few are from the UK’s lowest achieving demographic – poor white British boys. (To read more, click here.)

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