Do grammar schools work for everyone?
- Prevalence: There are 163 grammar schools in England located in 36 local authority (LA) areas, where they account for between 1.8% and 44% of the secondary school population. In the 10 LAs generally recognised as being fully selective, they account for 26-44% of secondary pupils.
- Private schools: The presence of grammar schools correlates with much lower proportions of pupils going to private schools. In areas with grammar schools, 8% of all secondary school children attend a private school, while in otherwise similar non-selective areas the proportion is 13%.
- Poor pupils: All grammar schools contain relatively low proportions of poor pupils, but the biggest discrepancies are seen in partially selective areas (ie, those with smaller numbers of grammar schools), presumably because competition for places is fiercest there. White British pupils are also slightly under-represented at grammar schools, but more so in some areas than in others.
- Nearby schools: Non-selective schools that are close to grammar schools tend to have fewer pupils with high prior attainment and more pupils with low prior attainment than those that do not have a grammar school nearby. The closer the grammar school the larger this effect. Consistent with this trend, non-selective schools in non-selective areas outperform those in selective areas.
- Non-grammar pupils: The GCSE performance of low- and medium-ability pupils (ie, those who would not normally attend a grammar school even if one was available) is slightly worse in fully selective areas than among otherwise similar schools in non-selective areas, though the size of this effect varies by subject. Moreover, non-selective schools in selective areas show lower entry rates for certain subjects (eg, Biology, Chemistry and Physics) and higher entry rates for others (eg, Core Science).
- Progression to post-16 education: At age 16, there are slightly higher progression rates from Key Stage 4 to Key Stage 5 in selective local authorities compared to otherwise similar non-selective local authorities. Moreover, selective areas show much higher rates of progression to sixth forms (which tend to be more academic) and correspondingly lower rates of progression to further education colleges (which are usually more vocational).
- Progression to higher education: Selective areas also show higher rates of progression from state schools to the most selective universities, such as those in the Russell Group and Oxbridge. This is in part because of their lower populations of private school pupils, but even when when this is taken into account a difference remains.
Map 1: Proportion of secondary schools that are grammar schools (2016)
Map 2: Grammar school density (2016)
|Local authority||Secondary school pupils (2016)||Proportion in grammar schools (%)|
|Kingston upon Thames||13010||16|
|Telford and Wrekin||11320||11.8|
- Size of secondary school pupil population
- Level of economic deprivation
- Proportion of white British pupils
- Proportion of pupils with English as a first language
- Degree of urbanisation
- Prior attainment at the end of Key Stage 2 (ie, at age 11)
|Selective local authority||Similar non-selective local authority (non-unique matching)||Similar non-selective local authority (unique matching)|
|Kent||West Sussex||West Sussex|
|Kingston upon Thames||Richmond upon Thames||Richmond upon Thames|
|Lincolnshire||Leicestershire||Cheshire West and Chester|
|Medway||East Sussex||East Sussex|
|North Yorkshire||Hampshire||Cheshire East|
|Plymouth||South Gloucestershire||South Gloucestershire|
|Slough||Rutland||Windsor and Maidenhead|
|Telford and Wrekin||Darlington||Redcar and Cleveland|
|Walsall||Newcastle upon Tyne||Newcastle upon Tyne|
Figure 1: Pupil characteristics of selective and non-selective local authority areas (2015)
Figure 2: Private school enrolment (2015)
Figure 3: Proportion of FSM pupils versus proportion of all pupils attending grammar schools (2015)
Figure 4: Proportion of white British pupils versus proportion of all pupils attending grammar schools (2015)
Figure 5: Secondary school pupil composition by distance from nearest grammar school (2015)
Figure 6: GCSE average points score (2015)
Figure 7: GCSE average total points score (2015)
Figure 8: GCSE average points score (2015)
Figure 9: GCSE entry rates by subject (2015)
Figure 10: Average GCSE points score by subject (2015)
- Higher entry rates and attainment in Core Science and (to a lesser degree) Additional Science.
- Higher entry rates but lower attainment in French and Religious Studies.
- Lower entry rates but slightly higher attainment in Physics.
- Lower entry rates and lower attainment in Geography, Chemistry, Biology, Design & Technology, English Language, English Literature and History.
Figure 11: Post-16 educational destinations for state secondary schools in England
Figure 12: Post-18 educational destinations