The Times, in a leader this week, repeated an essential truth, rooted in evidence ‘At the heart of the grammar schools debate is a single, uncomfortable truth. Selection is good for the children selected, and not so good for those who aren’t.’ Grammar schools just dont select disadvantaged pupils. At the last count 3% of their intakes on average, qualified for free school meals, the clunky measure for deprivation. So they are demonstrably not, as is claimed by some in government, engines of social mobility.
Somewhat bruised by the evidence put before them, ministers are considering forcing those grammars with the fewest disadvantaged children to lower the pass mark for applicants from poorer backgrounds. (Tip for SPADS-On balance, its better to look at the evidence, and then formulate a policy rather than formulate a policy and then look at the evidence). Lowering the pass mark, would be combined with other measures to help disadvantaged children, such as holding entrance tests on deprived council estates to encourage children there to apply. This means that the reforms that will appear in the White Paper (the Green paper consultation process, was a window dressing exercise ,much to the annoyance of those who submitted evidence to the consultation in good faith) will be more complex than simply allowing grammars to expand and free schools to select ,so may not please the existing grammar schools lobby. There will be caveats attached, given their poor record with disadvantaged pupils. Graham Brady MP, the leading Tory backbench voice on grammars, said this week “Grammars are already keen to widen the social diversity of applicants and of the pupils attending them .There are numerous ways of doing this and it would be a mistake to force grammar schools to adopt a particular approach by requiring a quota to be reserved for a particular demographics or requiring lower pass marks for entry exams.”
Grammar schools, in order to retain their status may have to change their admissions/selection procedures fairly radically. So, The Government could fall between a rock and hard place. Irritating the Grammar schools lobby on the one hand, and on the other, the bulk of the educational and research establishment who feel that the government is heading down a cul de sac on selection.