The general prohibition against academic selection in state schools prevents the establishment of any new Grammar schools. However, existing Grammar schools can expand, providing that any expansion onto a new site is a change to an existing school and not a new school. Which is why the anti-grammar school lobby is getting  animated about developments in Sevenoaks, Kent, where an existing Grammar school is seeking to open a satellite,  some distance away.

The Antis  are watching this closely.  It could be the tip of  an iceberg.  A decision is awaited from the Education Secretary.  Yes, they know that the law doesn’t allow for the expansion of grammar schools, and for this to happen there needs to be new legislation-which will need a majority in Parliament. That, of course,  will not happen. But they suspect that the pro-grammar lobby will  seek to use the satellite route to expand the programme elsewhere.

Grammar schools, secondary modern schools and technical schools formed what was known as the tripartite system, which arose from the interpretation of the Education Act 1944  .Grammar schools provided admission to children on the basis of their ability and offered an academic education. Selection was usually made at the end of primary school in the form of the ‘11 plus’ examination. Secondary moderns provided a more general education with an emphasis on more practical subjects. Technical schools provided a more general education but with a focus on technical subjects.

There are currently 163 grammar schools in England with a total number of 163,000 pupils. This comprises around  5% of the total number of pupils in England. Ten local authorities are classified by the Department for Education as having a wholly selective system and a further 26 have at least one grammar school in their area.

Not all Tories, by any means, support selection ,or the expansion of Grammar schools. But it is significant that two influential Tories,  Graham Brady and Boris Johnson, simultaneously, are making the case for more Grammars.  It looks to be orchestrated.

Opponents of Grammar schools are against selection in the state system. They believe that they may offer social mobility to a few, but its only the few. They may be fine institutions for those  fortunate  enough to attend them. But the real problem is the provision for those who fail to gain a place. And a majority of pupils  who enter fail the selection exam.

What about the selection process?. Although the 11 plus exam is supposed to measure potential, there are plenty of private tutors  who boast that they can get just about anyone to pass the 11 plus  providing they put in or ‘invest’  the extra hours. So this means, in practice, that middle class parents, with a decent income, are more likely to get their child into a grammar school than parents from a disadvantaged community. Hence the charge that Grammars are colonized by the middle classes.

If you can tutor for the exam, it rather suggests that it is not simply about measuring potential. And there appears to be no reliable evidence to suggest, in any case ,that 11 is the best age to measure a child’s potential.

But one of the most compelling arguments against grammar schools is that successive governments have seen the holy grail of education in improving the lot of the most disadvantaged pupils and narrowing the achievement gap between them and their peers. So this should be the benchmark against which Grammars are measured. Disadvantaged pupils are broadly those defined as eligible for free school meals. But in 2014, the proportion of grammar school pupils eligible for free school meals was 2.7% but 15.7% across all types of schools.

Minister Lord Nash, in the last government, (he is still in post) served a warning to grammar schools, on 1 July 2014 ,when he stated:

“The Government is committed to closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers. Grammar schools and the highest performing non-selective schools currently have some of the lowest representations of children eligible for free school meals in England. We want to encourage all high performing schools, including grammar schools to do more to attract and support disadvantaged children.”

When Chris Cook, a former Tory ministerial adviser (now with the BBC), was the FTs education correspondent he did some number crunching to find out how poor children fared in areas that had selective education. His verdict  was clear -poor children do dramatically worse in selective areas. He wrote on 28 January 2013 ‘If you plot how well children do on average by household deprivation for selective areas and for the rest of the country, you can see that the net effect of grammar schools is to disadvantage poor children and help the rich.’

So, if this is the case, are Ministers really going to agree that the expansion of  Grammar schools  is the best way to further social mobility and  narrow the achievement gap? I think not.

That doesn’t mean that  some satellites won’t be approved. Nor does it mean that Grammar schools that exist are not safe. They are. It just means that it is highly unlikely that we will see a significant expansion of Grammar schools, any time soon.





According to the  Schools Commissioner,  Frank Green (evidence to the Select Committee -13 May) the regional Schools Commissioners are going to take most note of those schools or academies that require improvement or are in special measures. That is about 10% of the number of academies. There are currently 4,095 academies across eight regions, with roughly equal numbers in each region.  Green said “If you take that as 500 academies per region at the present time, of which 10% are in difficulties, that is 50 schools. The regional‑schools‑commissioner role is going to be focused on those 50 schools in terms of improvement in the first instance”


The pupil premium funding will rise from £1.875 billion to £2.5 billion in 2014-15. The primary school pupil rate will increase from £900 to £1,300 to reflect the importance of early intervention. For the first time, all pupils who are looked after or leave care through adoption, special guardianship or residence orders will attract £1,900 from April 2014.

The teaching and learning toolkit, provided by the Education Endowment Foundation,  is an accessible summary of research on key education interventions that have the most  impact in this area. Any school judged to be requiring improvement, where the leadership is also deemed to require improvement, is expected to carry out a pupil premium review.  Also Schools must publish online details of what they do with the pupil premium and Ofsted will be looking very closely at its use and effect on pupils’ attainment. If the PP had been used on general provision, the school would have to justify how that had impacted all pupils. Ofsted inspections are increasingly focused on the achievement of disadvantaged pupils.  Lord Nash said on 3 February that “It is now very unlikely that a school which is not showing good progression for disadvantaged pupils would make an outstanding rating.”

Pupils who are eligible for the pupil premium:

Are registered as eligible for FSM or who have been registered at any point in the last 6 years (known as ‘Ever6’); or

Have been looked after by the local authority for a day or more; or

Were previously looked after and left care through being adopted on or after 30 December

2005; under a Special Guardianship Order on or after 30 December 2005; or under a Residence Order on or after 14 October 1991; and

Who have been recorded on the January Schools Census as being in one of these categories.

Summer schools for pupils receiving  the PP, according to DFE  ‘ provide an excellent opportunity for secondary schools to help disadvantaged new pupils understand what and how they will be studying in key stage 3. It is also an opportunity for schools to help disadvantaged pupils who are behind in key areas such as literacy and numeracy to  catch up with their peers.’


But closing the achievement gap-regarded as the Holy Grail in education- remains a  huge  challenge .As John Dunford pointed out ,recently, in a letter to the Guardian – ‘While the gap has not narrowed in secondary schools, in primaries it has. The most recent data for key stage 2 shows the gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and all other pupils narrowed from 20% (2011) to 17% (2012).’ (based, though, on just one years’ results)

For schools interested  in summer schools, see link



Huron surveys look at what choices the richest Chinese are making

UK Secondary  education rated above US

The Hurun Report  which surveys the choices and preferences of  the Chinese elite – also publishes  ‘The Best of British Education . The Best of British Education  is part of the Schools Guide Series, and is targeted at affluent Chinese parents intending to send their children to boarding schools and universities in the UK. Hurun. Report Founder and Director of the Schools Guide Series, Rupert Hoogewerf said, “British boarding schools are leaders of elite education across in the world, and are greatly acknowledged by Chinese entrepreneurs” In 2011, more than 50,000 UK student visas were issued by the UK Border Agency/Home Office in China, an increase of 20% from 2010. British boarding (secondary) schools are the first choice for Chinese entrepreneurs seeking an international education for their children. (the US is second)

The most recent consumer survey  found that 28.7% prefer UK as destination to educate children at high school level (secondary), slightly ahead of the US at 26%. 36% favour US for undergraduate and above education

The Schools Guide Series is an extensive and growing collection of guides, which provide Chinese parents  ‘with unrivalled insight into the education systems of seven countries, including the UK, US, Canada, Singapore, Australia & New Zealand and Switzerland with Hong Kong on its way this year.’

The top two concerns for the Chinese entrepreneur is their child’s education and leading a healthier life. 4 out of 5 millionaires in China are considering sending their child overseas to study and among industry experts, it is accepted that sending a child abroad is often the first step to much greater investment.

TEL:+86 (0)21 5010 5808 ADD:6F, Zhongrong Jasper Tower, 8 Yincheng Road, Pudong, Shanghai 200120, China




The debate continues but expansion put on the backburner


Many grassroots Tories still see grammar schools as an article of meritocratic faith, offering talented children from modest backgrounds the chance, perhaps the only real chance, of a first-class education and a ladder out if deprivation. There are 164 remaining state grammar schools (out of just over 4,000  state  secondary schools) dotted around about 20 local authorities. Only a few, including Kent, retain a completely selective system. Selection is based on an 11+ plus exam. Mary Ann Sieghart writing in the Independent a while back said …’if you are bright but poor and you live in Kent, Essex, Buckinghamshire or Northern Ireland, your parentage doesn’t have to dictate your progress. You have nearly the same chance of becoming a cabinet minister, a judge, a newspaper editor or a top rower as your privately educated neighbour. Why is that? Because these areas still have grammar schools, those turbo-chargers of social mobility.’

The head of Ofsted has just accused grammar schools of being “stuffed full” of middle-class children and of failing to increase social mobility.

“Grammar schools are stuffed full of middle-class kids. A tiny percentage are on free school meals: 3 per cent. That is a nonsense,” the Ofsted head told The Observer.

“Anyone who thinks grammar schools are going to increase social mobility needs to look at those figures. I don’t think they work.

“The fact of the matter is that there will be calls for a return to the grammar school system. Well, look what is happening at the moment.

“Northern Ireland has a selective system and they did worse than us in the [international comparison] table.

“The grammar schools might do well with 10% of the school population, but everyone else does really badly. What we have to do is make sure all schools do well in the areas in which they are located.”

Opponents of grammar schools have long claimed that disadvantaged pupils and those on FSM , and with SEN, are badly underrepresented, that rich parents ensure that they buy places through investing in private  tuition to give their children an unfair advantage at the test, and that, if you drill down into the academic results of grammar schools,  they are not quite as good   as they might at first seem, particularly if you use added value  measurements . Fiona Millar, from the group Comprehensive Future, told BBC 4s World this weekend  “The problem is that doing the [11+] tests is accompanied by a very expensive private tuition industry,”

The debate on Grammars has been rekindled  because last week the  plan for a “satellite” grammar school in Kent, which  was hatched because Sevenoaks was the only area of the county not to have a grammar school, was  rejected by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State. Campaigners had high hopes that he would approve the proposal and it would be the first of many.

The two applications by existing grammar schools – Weald of Kent and Invicta in Maidstone –were turned down by the Department for Education on the grounds that they did not constitute an expansion but would create a new school. One of the main arguments used was that the selective “satellite” was to be co-educational while both the proposers were single-sex schools. Under existing legislation, it is illegal to set up a new selective state school, but any good school – including a grammar school – can expand.(providing it satisfies local planning laws etc)

DfE officials though say the door is still open for an alternative proposal which can convince them it would expand an existing school. One option would be to persuade a co-educational grammar school to put in a bid. Sir Michael’s comments were criticised by David Davies, a Conservative MP and former grammar school pupil, who said many working-class children “got on through having access to grammar schools”.

Graham Brady, who resigned as a party spokesman in protest at Prime Minister David Cameron’s opposition to new grammar schools, said Sir Michael would do better to focus on the still large number of “very bad schools”.

Chris Cook, when he was education correspondent at the FT, examined recent data   and found that on average, poor children do markedly (GCSE results) worse in Kent than in the rest of the country. Kent is also less socially mobile than the rest of England – and much less mobile than London. He also found that ‘ A poor child in Kent, using the usual definition of a child eligible for free school meals, has a 55 per cent chance of getting results that put it in the bottom fifth of results- that means results weaker than around 3 Cs at GCSE. To look at the other end of the spectrum, only 4 per cent of FSM-eligible children in Kent get results in the top fifth nationally – that means the equivalent of eight As. If Kent were overcoming disadvantage totally, this would approach 20 per cent.’  To cut to the quick, Cooks main point t was that Anne Marie Sieghart was plain wrong in suggesting that Grammars were engines of social mobility.’

Improving social mobility is very much on the governments agenda, but they are largely at a loss to work out how to improve social mobility. With few disadvantaged  pupils getting good,  timely  careers advice from independent professionals,  and little integrated  employer engagement with schools it seems that not much   will change in the near future.

Doubtless the arguments over grammars  will continue. But grammar schools are unlikely to develop a larger footprint on the English schools landscape any time soon.


Transformation from area of underperformance and failing schools to one with  some of the best urban schools in the world

But Ofsted concerned about outcomes for 19 year olds


Tower Hamlets, which was praised by Ofsted for its achievements in its Annual Report , is described as having some of the best urban schools in the world,  by  a new report that charts the local authority’s transformation.

In 1997 Tower Hamlets schools were rated as the worst in the country.

But  a  new report  ‘Transforming Education for All: the Tower Hamlets Story’, by three educational academics, Prof David Woods, Prof Chris Husbands and Dr Chris Brown, looks at  how education in this deprived  borough has been transformed over the last few years.

The report notes that in 1998 only 26 per cent of students achieved five or more high-grade GCSEs – well below the national average of 43 per cent.

In 2012, this was up to 61.8 per cent of students achieving five GCSE grades A* to C including English and maths, above the national average of 59.4 per cent.

The authors said in a statement: “The Tower Hamlets story demonstrates that deprivation is not destiny and is an inspiring example to other schools, local authorities and the education system as a whole of what can be achieved.”

Mayor Lutfur Rahman welcomed the report, saying the transformation of the borough’s schools was “a wonderful success story”.

He said: “This success has been hard won. It is the result of tremendous work by students, parents, head teachers, school staff, council officers and politicians over the past 15 years.”

Mr Rahman added: “All those who have been involved in education in Tower Hamlets since 1998 should feel enormous pride in an achievement that is being held up as a shining example to communities around the world.”

Di Warne, head of secondary learning and achievement there, said the key to success was working in partnership with other schools and high expectations and support from local politicians.

“One of the biggest things has been our focus on monitoring and tracking the progress of young people and we do that really rigorously,” she said.

“I suppose what I would say to them [regions that are struggling] is to raise your aspirations and make your aspirations for your young people really clear and that poverty is no barrier to success and I think that is what London has proved more than anything.”

However, before we get too carried away, Ofsted in its annual report found that   sound GCSE attainment in some boroughs, including Tower Hamlets, is not being converted to good outcomes at age 19.

The academics developed seven explanatory themes that they believe have driven the change and improvement witnessed within the Borough. These are:

• Ambitious leadership at all levels

• Very effective school improvement

• High quality teaching and learning

• High levels of funding

• External integrated services

• Community development and partnerships

• A resilient approach to external government policies and pressure

They also  identify six major factors which explain the Tower Hamlets experience:

• Shared values and beliefs with robust and resilient purpose and professional will. ‘Yes we can…’

• Highly effective and ambitious leadership at all levels – Local Authority and school leadership.

• Schools rising to the standards challenge – improved teaching and learning, enhanced Continuing Professional Development, rigorous pupil tracking and assessment, a relentless focus on school improvement.

• Partnership working – inward and outward facing, external and integrated services, shared responsibility and accountability.

• Community development – building collaborative capacity and community cohesion.

• A professional learning community – building momentum and engagement through and across school communities, high levels of knowledge, trust and professional relationships.

Three respected educational academics, Prof David Woods, Prof Chris Husbands and Dr Chris Brown, have analysed how this turnaround was achieved in a report published on 11 December, called Transforming Education for All: the Tower Hamlets Story (PDF, 2mb).


Government keen on more faith schools but not everyone agrees


This government strongly supports faith schools and would like to see more of them. New faith academies and free schools may admit only half their intake based on faith where they are oversubscribed. But, according to Lord Nash, the Government  ‘remain strongly committed to faith schools, which play a long-established role in our diverse education system. They allow parents to choose a school in line with their faith and they make a significant contribution to educational standards in this country.’

According to the five A* to C statistics, including English and maths, 65% of pupils at Catholic schools achieve five A* to C grades, as opposed to non-faith schools, where the figure is 58%. At level 4 of key stage 2, 85% of pupils at Catholic schools achieve a pass mark, as opposed to 78% for non-faith schools. Church of England schools  achieving five A* to C grades, including in English and maths,  score 62% versus 58%, and at level 4 of key stage 2 they score 82% as opposed to 78%.

A number of new muslim schools are now entering the state  system too.

Some critics are concerned that faith schools could help segregate communities rather than support and  promote social cohesion, despite a clear duty placed on schools to  ‘promote community cohesion’. The government  points out that ‘ All state-funded schools are also required by law to teach a broad and balanced curriculum that promotes the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils, and Ofsted’s inspection framework includes a focus on this’

However the Cantle report of 2001 in the wake of the Bradford/Oldham riots found that communities were developing in parallel with little interaction and criticised the  Governments  policy of encouraging single-faith schools   as it  raised the  possibility of deeper divisions. Northern Irelands segregated school system has also been blamed for embedding and reinforcing division between catholic and protestant communities and helping to fuel the ‘Troubles’.

It is also the case that faith schools have been accused of not taking their share of FSM pupils, often below the respective local authority average, which  helps inflate their academic performance.  There is a significant performance gap between FSM pupils and their peers.