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Grammar Schools: why academic selection only benefits the affluent

14 March 2017

In light of the U.K. government's pledge to set aside £500 million for free schools, Professor Simon Burgess argues that strong inequalities exist in pupils accessing such education.

The U.K. government has recently set aside £500 million for new free schools, which includes a commitment to a one-off payment of £320m for 140 new free schools, revealed in last week’s Budget. The schools are on top of the 500 already pledged to be created by 2020. 

In an article for the online news site, The Conversation, Simon Burgess, Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol, argues that the creation of free schools will ‘pave the way for a new generation of grammar schools’ but that grammars remain the preserve of the affluent’.

Referring to the U.K. Prime Minister’s ‘personal mission’ to overturn a ban on the development of free schools, Simon Burgess maintains that ‘strong inequalities’ exist in pupils accessing free schools.

The research and analysis was conducted by Simon Burgess, Assistant Professor Claire Crawford from the University of Warwick’s Economics Department and Lindsey Macmillan, Senior Lecturer in Economics at UCL.

Their work reveals that access to grammar schools is ‘highly skewed by a child’s socioeconomic status’ and shows that that in grammar school areas, the most deprived families only have a 6% chance of attending a selective school; the most affluent families have a 50% (or better) chance and the 1% most affluent have an 80% chance. However, the ‘just about managing’ families which, as Simon Burgess says, have recently ‘featured so heavily in Theresa May’s rhetoric,’ only have a 12% chance of accessing a grammar school.

For further information about the research and the index of socioeconomic status that the researchers produced for each pupil in their data, please see The Conversation’s article, here:

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