What is a selective school?

The Times newspaper continuing raising issues about education when most of those likely to be interested are away on holiday. Perhaps they think it makes for interesting reading on line when lazing by the pool. Today it points out that one in twenty secondary school pupils educated in state funded schools are in selective schools. Frankly, at this point in the demographic cycle that is not a very surprising fact. But, it begs the question that parents of pupils entering primary schools in those areas this September will no doubt be asking, ‘what does that mean for my offspring when they reach the decision point?’
We know that at present secondary school pupil numbers are low compared with the forecasts for the next decade. To continue with the present percentage in selective schools might require an extra 33,000 places in selective schools to be created by 2024. That number will be even higher once the growth in the secondary school population makes it through to the sixth form.

Assuming you think that the continuation of selective schools is a good idea, I don’t, the schools have two ways forwards. Either they increase the places on offer to cope with the increased school population or they do what has been the case in the past, raise the entry level so only the number of pupils needed to fill the places pass the entry tests. The test is presumably is one reason why many selective schools are single-sex. Separate schools doesn’t make the issue of pass marks between girls and boys anything to worry about. The notion presumably being that equal number of of boys and girls need access to the education provided in selective schools. However, it is interesting to wonder what would happen if a parent discovered it was easier for one sex than the other to enter such schools?

It seems likely that the sixteen or so areas with significant percentages of pupils in selective schools will face pressure from parents to create new schools to keep the percentage where it is at present. As a result, with all new schools having to be an academy of one sort or another, the government will soon have to declare its hand. This is where the issue of satellite schools becomes an interesting legal issue.
In the remaining authorities, with a small number of pupils attending selective schools, it seems likely that these will in some cases see the school as an academy just up the ante on entry levels, especially where they have little or no links to the local authority where they are located and they also serve pupils from a much wider area.
Either way, the lead time for new schools to be built means that the government cannot wait much longer before declaring its hand. Unless something happens soon parents will start to notice entry tests becoming harder and siblings of pupils already in selective schools may discover that they won’t be following their older brothers or sisters into the school.

Those with a knowledge of history will recall that it was the fate of the post-war baby boomers sent to secondary modern schools that fuelled the drive in the 1960s towards non-selective secondary education. This may well be one of the debates of this parliament. For you cannot expand selective schools without expanding secondary moderns as well when pupil number are on the increase.


4 thoughts on “What is a selective school?

  1. Grammar academies can increase their Pupil Admission Numbers (PANs). This is what happened at Bourne Grammar. It now recruits not just from Bourne and surrounding villages in Lincolnshire, but from nearby Rutland (comprehensive) and the city of Peterborough (comprehensive). It’s received considerable investment for new buildings.

    This is likely to have happened in other grammar academies. It amounts to increasing selective places by stealth and risks undermining the comprehensive system in nearby areas. Inspectors have already noted that Casterton Business and Enterprise College in Rutland has fewer previously high-attaining pupils than might be expected. This College is very near the Lincs border and a bus travels from Stamford which picks up Rutland pupils en route to Bourne Grammar. It’s not difficult to realise where these previously high-attaining pupils have gone. (Inspectors noted Casterton also had fewer previously low-attaining pupils than might be inspected – but that’s a different story).

    • Janet,
      I think that there is a risk of sliding back to a ‘selective’ system. The cut sin sixth form funding must also be encouraging some schools to increase numbers so that their sixth form groups will eventually become larger and more cost-effective. That’s not really a reason to create more selective schools or places at such schools since it doesn’t solve the real issue of 16-19 funding. Neith, I think, does the policy Exchange scheme touted around today of levying a fine on schools that fail to prepare students properly for GCSEs in English and Maths.

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