Grammars boost disadvantaged pupils’ chance of attending top universities compared to non-selective schools, according to new research.
On 10th January, the Higher Education Policy Institute’s (HEPI) publication explained that disadvantaged pupils, especially those of BAME backgrounds, are up to 5 times more likely to attend highly-selective universities such as Oxbridge if they have a selective education.
The report highlights that a pupil from the most disadvantaged 20% of the population is “more than twice as likely to progress to Oxbridge if they live in a selective area rather than a non-selective area,” while allowing that in rates of progression to higher university more generally, areas with selective education systems only marginally differ to non-selective areas.
Indeed, England’s 163 grammar schools send more than 30 per cent more BME students to Cambridge than all 1,849 non-selective schools combined, representing a “lifeline of opportunity”.
The report also claims that more disadvantaged pupils attend grammars than is traditionally believed: 45% of grammar school pupils are from backgrounds with a median or below household income.
This categorisation of ‘disadvantage’ as ‘less than half’ is disputed by Dr Nuala Burgess, Chair of campaign group Comprehensive Future, “Below median, for example, would include many lower middle class, well-educated families, such as teachers, who are hardly disadvantaged in educational terms.
“No reputable piece of research into education, disadvantage and attainment, uses this crude and very broad measure.”
Most of the research into this area categorises ‘disadvantaged’ as being in the lowest socio-economic quintile, or a pupil in receipt of Free School Meals (FSM). This definition is used by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) and the Department for Education.
The author of the report, Ian Mansfield, is a former top civil servant at the Department for Education and is currently a Governor at Bath Spa University.
He also points out that while many educational experts are against grammar school expansion, this is not reflected in public opinion, which supports the policy by a 12-percentage point margin.
While the ban for new grammar schools remains in place, 16 grammars will receive a share of the Department for Education’s £50 million pot for expansion, on the basis that they will improve social mobility and access to higher education for disadvantaged pupils.
Only 167,000 children attend England’s 163 grammar schools, compared to over 3 million in the non-selective state sector.