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)
Sources: Department for Education; Office for National Statistics; SchoolDash analysis.

Map 2: Grammar school density (2016)
 
Sources: Department for Education; Office for National Statistics; SchoolDash analysis.
Local authoritySecondary school pupils (2016)Proportion in grammar schools (%)
Trafford1689044.3
Buckinghamshire4248036.3
Slough1102035.8
Southend-on-Sea1319033.3
Torbay895032.8
Medway1955030.5
Kent11278529.6
Sutton1891529.5
Wirral2206029.5
Bexley2031527.1
Lincolnshire4911026.3
Poole946025.7
Bournemouth1115020.2
Reading945517.2
Kingston upon Thames1301016
Plymouth1758515.9
Gloucestershire4398014.2
Calderdale1639513.4
Telford and Wrekin1132011.8
Warwickshire3754010.9
Barnet270209.9
Birmingham783759.6
Stoke-on-Trent124458.8
Bromley254557.9
Redbridge253907.2
Walsall211957.2
Lancashire702056.2
Enfield232105.9
North Yorkshire427205.7
Wiltshire342105.7
Kirklees263405.3
Wolverhampton166454.7
Essex911653.8
Liverpool298053.4
Cumbria318202.6
Devon447251.8
  • 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 authoritySimilar non-selective local authority (non-unique matching)Similar non-selective local authority (unique matching)
BarnetHounslowHounslow
BexleyHaveringHavering
BirminghamManchesterManchester
BournemouthYorkYork
BromleyHaveringHillingdon
BuckinghamshireHampshireHampshire
CalderdaleStockportStockport
CumbriaDurhamDurham
DevonDorsetDorset
EnfieldSouthwarkSouthwark
EssexNorthamptonshireNorthamptonshire
GloucestershireHampshireLeicestershire
KentWest SussexWest Sussex
Kingston upon ThamesRichmond upon ThamesRichmond upon Thames
KirkleesBoltonBolton
LancashireHampshireStaffordshire
LincolnshireLeicestershireCheshire West and Chester
LiverpoolDudleyDudley
MedwayEast SussexEast Sussex
North YorkshireHampshireCheshire East
PlymouthSouth GloucestershireSouth Gloucestershire
PooleDarlingtonDarlington
ReadingRutlandRutland
RedbridgeHounslowWandsworth
SloughRutlandWindsor and Maidenhead
Southend-on-SeaStockton-on-TeesStockton-on-Tees
Stoke-on-TrentHerefordshireHerefordshire
SuttonHaveringCroydon
Telford and WrekinDarlingtonRedcar and Cleveland
TorbayDarlingtonWarrington
TraffordSolihullSolihull
WalsallNewcastle upon TyneNewcastle upon Tyne
WarwickshireHampshireShropshire
WiltshireDorsetSomerset
WirralWiganWigan
WolverhamptonNottinghamNottingham
Figure 1: Pupil characteristics of selective and non-selective local authority areas (2015)
 
Sample sizes: Non-selective LAs: 115. Similar non-selective LAs: 36. Selective LAs: 36.
Note: One local authority, the City of London, is not included because it doesn't have any state secondary schools.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 2: Private school enrolment (2015)
 
Sample sizes: Similar non-selective LAs: 36. Selective LAs: 36.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 3: Proportion of FSM pupils versus proportion of all pupils attending grammar schools (2015)
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 4: Proportion of white British pupils versus proportion of all pupils attending grammar schools (2015)
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 5: Secondary school pupil composition by distance from nearest grammar school (2015)
Sample size: 2,893 non-selective secondary schools.
Notes: Prior attainment bands are captured on entry to Key Stage 4 (age 14). For single-sex non-selective schools, only grammar schools with an overlapping intake were included.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 6: GCSE average points score (2015)
 
Sample sizes: Grammar schools in partially selective LAs: 48-67. Grammar schools in fully selective LAs: 74-90. Non-selective schools in non-selective LAs: 1,494-2,033. Non-selective schools in partially selective LAs: 508-669. Non-selective schools in fully selective LAs: 90-192.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 7: GCSE average total points score (2015)
 
Sample sizes: Non-selective schools in non-selective LAs: 4,646. Non-selective schools in fully selective LAs: 403.
Note: GCSE total points scores are limited to each pupil's eight best subjects.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 8: GCSE average points score (2015)
 
Sample sizes: Non-selective schools in non-selective LAs: 1,996-2,036. Non-selective schools in fully selective LAs: 190-192.
Note: GCSE value-added scores are usually normalised to a national average of 1,000. Here we have normalised them to zero in order to make the differences easier to see.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 9: GCSE entry rates by subject (2015)
 
Sample sizes: Non-selective schools in non-selective LAs: 192. Non-selective schools in fully selective LAs: 192.
Note: Design & Technology includes all varieties of this subject: Electronic Products, Engineering, Food Technology, Graphic Products, Product Design, Resistant Materials, Systems & Control, and Textiles Technology.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 10: Average GCSE points score by subject (2015)
 
Sample sizes: Non-selective schools in non-selective LAs: 69-192. Non-selective schools in fully selective LAs: 69-192.
Note: For reference, grade 'C' equates to 40 points, 'B' is 46 points, 'A' is 52 points and 'A*' is 58 points. See this DfE document for more details.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
  • 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
Sample size: Similar non-selective LAs: 36. Selective LAs: 36.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 12: Post-18 educational destinations
Sample size: Similar non-selective LAs: 36. Selective LAs: 36.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
  1. The data presented in this report are current as of 18th November 2016.
  2. No grammar schools remain in Scotland or Wales, though some schools there retain the word "grammar" in their name. Grammar schools do still exist in Northern Ireland but they are not analysed here.

 

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