Grammar education not key

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New research on grammar schools has debunked the idea that a grammer school education is one of the key routes for poor but clever children to make their way to the top of society.
The findings could re-ignite the debate over the rights and wrongs of grammars that in 2007 split the Tory party.

A disproportionately large number of grammar pupils were educated at prep schools, while a tiny number come from deprived families, suggests a study by a leading economist specialising in education.

David Jesson of York University concludes in the research paper: "The clear picture that does emerge is of a system of schooling that systematically discriminates against disadvantaged pupils and is exclusive in its social composition." Prof Jesson told the Financial Times the situation was "probably going to get more polarised", as more parents tried to transfer their children into the state system at 11 to make savings on school fees during the credit crunch.

He added about 15 per cent of grammar pupils who took GCSEs in 2007 were originally from non-state schools. This is double the national proportion of 11-year-olds at private schools - although the figure may be higher in some counties with grammars, precisely because parents use preps to get their children into them.

By contrast, the paper says "well under 500" out of more than 20,000 grammar school pupils in the 2007 GCSE year were on free school meals - the most common measure of social deprivation used in education. This is well below the average of 13 per cent of pupils eligible for free school meals in England as a whole.

The professor attributes the high success of prep schools in getting their children into grammars to the fact the preps have the time to "coach for grammar school entry". This is because, unlike state schools, they are not obliged to spend their time following the national curriculum.

David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, attributed the high number of ex-prep school children at grammars to "the quality and added value" of prep education.

Buckinghamshire, which has several selective grammars with extremely good A-level results, has a large number of preps but a much smaller number of private secondaries than in many counties of comparable wealth.