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The national debate around grammar schools has been fairly inescapable over the last few weeks, but what exactly are the facts? Read on to find out more…

Grammar schools

The green paper

On 12th September, the Government issued a green paper entitled ‘Schools that work for everyone’, detailing their proposals for grammar-school expansion. The DfE will now be holding a consultation period until 12th December on the proposals.

The main proposals from the green paper that related to grammar schools were as follows:

  • To allow selective schools to expand, as long as they provide support to ensure “good quality non-selective places locally”.
  • Conditions for expansion could include: taking a quota of pupils from lower-income backgrounds; simultaneously establishing a new non-selective Secondary school or a feeder Primary school in a low-income area; partnering with an existing non-selective school; or ensuring there are opportunities to join the selective school at different ages, such as 14 and 16 – as well as 11.
  • The government will set up a £50 million fund to help existing grammar schools to expand.
  • To allow new selective schools, which would have to be set up in response to local demand.
  • To allow existing non-selective schools to become selective, as long as certain criteria are met – including meeting local demand.
  • Underperforming selective schools could be stripped of access to additional funding streams for new pupils, They could also have their right to select by ability removed or be barred from further expansion.
  • Multi-academy trusts will be encouraged to select within their trust. There is also a suggestion that they should set up a single centre to educate their “most able” pupils, dubbed a “centre of excellence”.
  • Outreach activity will become compulsory for existing selective schools, including teacher and pupil exchanges with local schools.

So what are the facts and figures surrounding grammar schools?

There are currently 163 grammar schools in England out of a total of around 3,000 state secondaries. There are 69 in Northern Ireland and none in Wales and Scotland.

They select their pupils based on ability, which is assessed in the 11 plus test. This exam can consist of questions from any or all of the following areas:

  • Maths
  • Verbal reasoning
  • English – comprehension, punctuation and grammar
  • Non-verbal reasoning
  • Creative writing

Some grammar schools purely use ability as their selection criteria, skimming off the top achievers. Others take into account other criteria, such as a catchment area or whether or not the child has siblings already attending the school.

What are the arguments for and against?

The main argument against grammar schools is that they are more accessible to children from wealthier families who can afford to have their child tutored for the test.

However, many people believe that the original social intention behind grammar schools – to provide the best education for talented pupills regardless of social background – is thoroughly laudable.

Where do you stand on grammar schools? Let us know in our quick poll. It only takes a moment!


  1. A. Woodbridge
    on 11 October 2016

    Primaries not at Grammar level

    Forgotten in the Grammar school debate is that State primary schools do not teach to the standard of the 11+, as that standard is extremely high.

    Therefore even the most able pupils from a State primary would not be able to pass the 11+ without considerable extra tuition.

    For Grammar schools to be truly providing opportunities for lower income families, State primary schools would need to stream students in Years 4 and 5, allowing the more able to study for the 11+.


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