Social mobility tsar: More grammar schools could worsen educational inequality

Posted On: 
6th November 2016

The Government's social mobility tsar has called on ministers to rethink plans for new grammar schools, claiming they could make England's educational inequality worse. 

Pupils in a computer suite at a school in Wolverhampton

While supporters have argued that grammars are an engine of social mobility, an upcoming report describes increasing selection as "at best a distraction" from efforts to help poorer students. 

Education Secretary Justine Greening faces a battle to get her plans through the House of Commons, with several Conservative colleagues voicing their opposition to the plans as they are currently set out. 

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Her predecessor Nicky Morgan has claimed that opening new grammars risks "actively undermining six years of progressive education reform".

The Social Mobility Commission, headed by former Labour minister Alan Milburn, says reforming school structures is not a "silver bullet" for fundamental problems in English education. 

The Commission's upcoming annual report, published later this month, warns that any gains for poor pupils attending grammars are offset by worse results elsewhere.

“The commission’s greatest concern is that the positive gains for the few that attend a grammar school are outweighed by the negative effects for the majority of children in selective areas that go to other schools," the report reads.

“There is no evidence that reforming school structures, either by continuing rollout of the academies programme or by introducing new grammar schools, by itself will provide an answer to England’s entrenched social mobility problem. More selection in state schools could make the situation worse, not better.”