The Pros and Cons of Grammar Schools

We are set for one of the biggest shake-ups in the education system in a generation, with the reintroduction of new grammar school, what is the future of state schools that excel and what does this mean for the private school sector?

Historically the grammar school (this goes back to medieval times) was an institution that encouraged the teaching of language and academic subjects. Fast-forward to Victorian times and it became the norm, that a secondary school was selective in its pupil intake. Going into the 20th Century and the grammar school system slowed and by the 70s many had been merged with secondary moderns, non-selective schools and formed comprehensive secondary schools.

Last week Theresa May announced that from 2017 grammar schools, in their original selective form, will be making a comeback in our education landscape. A subject like this strikes to the heart of how England and the United Kingdom is divided in opinion. We thought we would take a look at both sides of the coin, to try to understand if this is a positive step forward for our education system.

Arguments for:

Pupils that gain entry to a grammar school will automatically find themselves in a working environment that suits them. This comes from the entrance exam and the fact that schools can select students based on their own specific exam. Many argue that this leads to higher levels of education and a learning habitat that suits a child’s needs.

The above argument naturally leads to a school, as a whole, getting better results as they are given the chance, at point of entry, to ensure that they have a cohort capable of exceeding their predecessors.

In The Week the point was put that “Selective education supporters often point to the list of high-achievers who were taught at grammar schools, including Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Margaret Thatcher, Anthony Hopkins, David Attenborough and Alan Bennett.” and this is a strong argument to prove that they are more successful than not, with many successful people coming from grammar education. But not everyone thinks so.

Arguments against:

Ryan Shorthouse, the Director of Bright Blue, an education think tank said in a recent Guardian interview “policymakers need to look at the aggregate effects: poorer kids from selective areas do worse on average than their peers in non-selective areas. They are not engines of social mobility. The motivation for lifting the ban on new grammar schools would be political positioning, not the evidence.”

This argument is echoed across the education landscape and this policy on grammar school reforms is not sitting well with many.

It is commonly thought that a move such as this will do nothing to even the playing field for rich and poor children, more the opposite and will polarize an already divided system, shutting out the poorer and less fortunate.

But what about private schools?

The private school sector does not seem, on the most part, quite so irked by May’s decision and the wider education sector, but this may be a little silly as this could have real consequences for some private schools.

Larger private schools, even smaller ones in central London will see little in terms of prospective student interest. This is largely due to the incredible reputation many of these schools hold, but smaller privates and independent schools could be massively affected when this goes through. If a parent is looking for a school place for their high achieving child and they have the option of a well funded, excellently equipped grammar, why would they even consider the expense of private?

All these questions are yet to be answered, as is the actual details of exactly what May is proposing. What is clear though, is that this could change the education landscape for some time. We stand and wait.