The economic cost of grammar schools

Much of the Tory argument in favour or a return to a selective school system, with both grammar schools and secondary modern schools – whatever name you give them –  has centred on the  possible social mobility benefits of allowing children good at academic subjects to be socially segregated from their peers at age eleven. Those parents with the money have always been able to achieve this result by opting for private schools.

Now, I cannot oppose private schools, because how you spend your cash is up to you. How the government taxes it is up to the government. But, I do wonder what will be the fate of private day schools under a revamped selective system? Unless the Tories can come up with a regime that allows children from dis-advantaged backgrounds to be selected for grammar schools places the selective schools will become havens for parents that can afford to pay for testing to pass the entrance exams, as happens at present. Using the test of Free School Meals, existing grammar school almost universally do not admit children on free school meals, even allowing for the fact that many selective schools are in areas of relatively low unemployment.

So what happens if parents decide to switch from paying for secondary education to taking advantage of free schooling in grammar schools provided by the state? Well, someone has to pay for the cost of these extra pupils. Might the cost be as much as a billion pounds extra on the education budget once the legislation permitting grammar schools is enacted? After all, I am sure parents will see the economic benefits of not having to pay out school fees and will be pushing for such schools everywhere. It would surely be difficult for the government to win a court case that schooling was still a local service when so many decisions are taken nationally, including who has the right to open a new school and thus to try to deny a demand from a group of parents for a selective school whatever the local community as a whole wants.

Transferring the cost of educating a group of secondary pupils from the private sector to the state might be balanced by an increase in private primary schools just concerned with coaching pupils for entry to grammar schools. I have already alluded to the possible effects on recruitment to teaching in the secondary sector of re-creating a selective system, but it might also affect recruitment to primary school teaching.

There are poor schools in the present system, but the answer is to strive to improve them, as has happened in parts of London and not to turn back the clock to a system that clearly doesn’t work for the benefit of all children.

Perhaps Mrs May sees grammar schools in the same light that Mrs Thatcher saw the sale of council houses, a vote winner for the Tories and hang the consequences for society as a whole. If so, she should test the support through a general election sooner rather than later.

Grammar Schools -percentage of pupils on Free School Meals in rank order from highest % to lowest (from Edubase January 2016)

FSM %
12.4
9.6
8.5
7
6.8
6.3
6
5.8
5.4
5.4
5.4
5.2
5.2
5
5
4.9
4.8
4.5
4.5
4.4
4.3
4.3
4.3
4.3
4.3
4.2
4.2
4.2
4.1
4.1
4
4
4
3.8
3.7
3.7
3.7
3.7
3.6
3.5
3.5
3.5
3.4
3.4
3.2
3.2
3.1
3.1
3
3
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.9
2.8
2.8
2.8
2.8
2.6
2.6
2.6
2.6
2.6
2.5
2.5
2.4
2.4
2.4
2.3
2.3
2.3
2.3
2.3
2.3
2.2
2.2
2.2
2.2
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2.1
2
2
2
2
2
2
1.9
1.9
1.9
1.9
1.9
1.9
1.8
1.8
1.8
1.8
1.8
1.8
1.8
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.7
1.6
1.6
1.5
1.5
1.5
1.5
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.3
1.3
1.3
1.2
1.2
1.2
1.1
1.1
1.1
1
1
1
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.6
0.5
0.5
0.3
0.3
0.2
0

 

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “The economic cost of grammar schools

    • Janet,

      This despite all the evidence that better education reduces downstream costs to the health and justice budgets. However, I guess it was what you would expect from the Tory government. Next move lowering the leaving age to 16 and let employers pay for any training they need?

      John

  1. Pingback: I Went To A Grammar School in 1985 | @TeacherToolkit

    • The policy of grammar schools clearly appeals to some voters otherwise the Tories wouldn’t have taken it up. But, as with the issue of making all primary schools academies, the chaos it is capable of causing in rural areas might be unhelpful in other areas. I suppose the Tory strategist shave calculated loyal Tory voters won’t vote Lib Dem over this policy and they will gain Labour facing voters in marginal seats: we shall see over the next few weeks in the forthcoming local by-election campaigns

      John Howson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s