More grammar schools can help bridge the social divide

More grammar schools can help bridge the social divide

Research published this week claims to prove that social mobility will not be improved by grammar schools as too few working-class children attend them.

Well, yes, that is true going by the status quo and the reason it’s true is that there are too few grammar schools!

Currently, there are only 164 grammar schools across the country. They are not evenly spread and mainly contained in affluent areas.

Their rarity also means the competition to get entry into them is harder and this, in turn, makes the 11+ tests tougher.

That has led to wealthier parents paying for extra tuition to help ensure their child gets in.

But what statistics do show is that when children from poorer incomes do manage to get into a grammar school, the gulf between them and their wealthier peers is more likely to be closed than had they stayed at a state comprehensive.

If we were to open up more grammar schools, the competition would become far less intense.

And if we were to target those new grammar schools to the most deprived areas first then we would open up opportunities to poorer children that are currently denied to them.

Professor Sullivan’s research, which has garnered many headlines as proof the Conservatives are wrong on grammar schools, simply reflects the current state of affairs and not how things could be.

Look at Northern Ireland. The large number of grammar schools there means that entry is far easier than it is in England.

In some of our own research on grammar entry in Northern Ireland, it was clear that many more children were achieving entry and tutoring was less of a factor.

So research on what currently exists in England should not be used against what could happen.

There are many older people in our society who have clearly benefitted from a grammar school education, including Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn – so let’s not deny it to the next generation of political leaders.