Gram­mars help more black pupils aim high

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Camilla Turner ED­U­CA­TION ED­I­TOR

Gram­mar schools are send­ing more black and mi­nor­ity eth­nic stu­dents to Cam­bridge than all the other state schools in the coun­try com­bined, anal­y­sis sug­gests. A re­port from the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute ex­am­in­ing the im­pact of se­lec­tive school­ing found that chil­dren from the most dis­ad­van­taged 20 per cent of house­holds were more than twice as likely to get a place at Ox­ford or Cam­bridge if they lived in an area with gram­mar schools.

GRAM­MAR schools are send­ing more black and mi­nor­ity eth­nic (BME) stu­dents to Cam­bridge Univer­sity than all the other state schools in the coun­try com­bined, anal­y­sis re­veals.

Chil­dren from the most dis­ad­van­taged 20 per cent of house­holds are more than twice as likely to get a place at Ox­ford or Cam­bridge if they live in an area with gram­mar schools, ac­cord­ing to the re­port from the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute (Hepi).

The pa­per ex­am­ined the im­pact of se­lec­tive school­ing on state-ed­u­cated pupils’ pro­gres­sion to top uni­ver­si­ties.

Iain Mans­field, a for­mer se­nior civil ser­vant who wrote the re­port, said the fig­ures were a “shock­ing in­dict­ment” on the coun­try’s 1,849 com­pre­hen­sive schools.

His anal­y­sis found that BME pupils were more than five times as likely to progress to Ox­ford or Cam­bridge if they lived in a se­lec­tive rather than non-se­lec­tive area.

More than a third (39 per cent) of pupils in gram­mar school ar­eas pro­gressed to pres­ti­gious uni­ver­si­ties, com­pared with just 23 per cent in com­pre­hen­sive ar­eas. The re­port an­a­lysed the back­ground of Cam­bridge stu­dents over the past three years and found that gram­mar schools sent 486, com­pared with 362 from com­pre­hen­sives.

“As­ton­ish­ingly, 163 gram­mar schools sent over 30 per cent more BME en­trants to Cam­bridge than the nearly 2,000 non-se­lec­tive schools com­bined,” the re­port stated.

“With more than three quar­ters of the coun­try hav­ing no gram­mar schools, these fig­ures rep­re­sent a shock­ing in­dict­ment of the com­pre­hen­sive sys­tem.”

Fig­ures for Ox­ford were un­avail­able be­cause the univer­sity did not col­lect the rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion, but the anal­y­sis was likely to be “broadly ap­pli­ca­ble” to both uni­ver­si­ties.

Mr Mans­field said much of the pre­vi­ous re­search into gram­mar schools and so­cial mo­bil­ity had fo­cused on el­i­gi­bil­ity for free school meals (FSM).

A re­port pub­lished last year by the cam­paign group Com­pre­hen­sive Fu­ture claimed that just 4.5 per cent of gram­mar school places went to FSM

‘These fig­ures from gram­mar schools rep­re­sent a shock­ing in­dict­ment of the com­pre­hen­sive sys­tem’

chil­dren. But the Hepi pa­per said us­ing FSM ob­scured large dif­fer­ences within the other 85 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

Mr Mans­field ar­gued that gram­mar schools had a “so­cially di­verse range of pupils”, with 45 per cent com­ing from fam­i­lies with in­come lev­els below the me­dian. He said the fig­ures clearly un­der­mined the claim that gram­mar schools were “just for the rich”, adding this “sim­ply isn’t true”.

How­ever, Dr Lind­sey Macmil­lan, a reader in eco­nomics at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don, and Dr Matt Dick­son, from Bath Univer­sity, urged cau­tion.

“The ar­eas that chose to keep gram­mar schools … are gen­er­ally more af­flu­ent with a higher pro­por­tion of de­gree-ed­u­cated peo­ple,” they said. “These are pre­cisely the char­ac­ter­is­tics that sup­port ac­cess to elite uni­ver­si­ties.”

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