Have grammar schools in Kent improved social mobility? The fact is they have not....

Allan Beavis's picture
Mary Ann Sieghart writes in The Independent that, if you live in Kent, access to grammar schools means that you have nearly the same chance as progressing into the top jobs as privately-educated people.

Grammar schools as an engine for greater social mobility? Well no.

Here Christopher Cook, writing in the Financial Times shows that, on average, poor children do markedly worse in Kent than in the rest of the country. Kent is less socially mobile than the rest of England – and much less mobile than London.
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Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 09:21

I'm afraid Cook's article - interesting, well documented and sensible as it is - doesn't really refute what Sieghart says.

She was not talking about the average performance of poor kids, but about the prospects of highly intelligent poor kids becoming judges etc.

The more appropriate comparison, therefore, would perhaps be the proportion of Oxbridge places won by pupils from counties with Grammar schools as against those that don't. If Kent has a markedly higher Oxbridge record, then it is doing what Sieghart says....... albeit at the expense of others.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 09:40

So you are underlying the fact that Sieghart is advocating an education system where only the deserving (ie "bright") poor deserve a chance at social mobility? Isn't social inequality bad enough as it is without the state making it even worse by segregating the deserving poor from the undeserving poor?

I think Cook's article emphatically shows that where there is education apartheid, the majority do worse. Where there is more equitable access, the majority do better. What sort of record does Kent have to proud of if its grammars sent a few kids to Oxbridge - they have failed the rest because of their apartheid.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 09:50

Isn’t social inequality bad enough as it is without the state making it even worse by segregating the deserving poor from the undeserving poor?

Are you seriously saying that people should be stuck in the class they are born into irrespective of their talents or efforts? Thus, no working class kid could become a doctor or a lawyer? Because to allow that would be "segregating the poor"? Wow.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 10:09

No Tarr

When your appalling motives are revealed, you resort to distortions.

What I am saying is that yours and Sieghart's apartheid views are abhorrent because they allow mobility only for those "poor" but "bright" or deemed "bright" by an exam taken at 11 years of age. The undeserving poor presumably are of no consequence and can be left to rot? I note that you distinguish between "poor" and "working class", so I think we are agreed that in your mind the working class can be intelligent and "worthy" of mobility and the poor are stupid and should be condemned to no life chances. I thought "apartheid" was too strong a word, but clearly not.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 11:30

I haven't disorted anything, Allan. I quoted you verbatim and then asked you to confirm the obvious construction that invited by your extraordinary statement.

I think it is you who is doing the distorting:

......yours and Sieghart’s apartheid views...

First, my views are different from Sieghart's. She supports the general extension of the grammar school system. I don't. Second, she doesn't support 'apartheid' as you put it. Nor does she think the less academically able should be 'left to rot'.

She points out that in Northern Ireland the non-grammar schools are very good and that the system outperforms England.

they allow mobility only for those “poor” but “bright”

I'm still baffled by your resistance to the idea that ability ought to be a requirement for certain jobs. Do you think ministers or judges should not be 'bright'? Would you consent to being operated on by a surgeon without a strong academic record?

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 11:46

I think anyone who advocates, as Sieghart does and you do elsewhere on this site, a system that selects and segregates any child, including the deserving "bright" poor to grammar schools whilst the undeserving are left with what is deemed a third rate education, which will be definition, offer no route to social mobility, supports educational apartheid.

You pretend to be baffled, Tarr, but you are just deliberately cutting and pasting quotes in order to misrepresent them. What I favour is more mobility for all children born without a silver spoon in their mouths - not just those that an education system deems worthy of it at age 11. Good schools (and by this I don't mean just grammar schools but any excellent performing school) are not enough to engender social cohesion. There has to be a political will to do so, but of course the Tories' existence is dependent upon maintaining the class system so that the servants know who are the masters.

Smiley might be very surprised at your faux puzzlement

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 23/05/2012 - 10:47

What I favour is more mobility for all children born without a silver spoon in their mouths –

Yes, that's the problem. "Social mobility for all" is like "excellence for all" just an empty and meaningless slogan. Not everybody can be successful. Not everyone can excel - the very meaning of the word 'excel' prohibits universality.

Because you are an egalitarian fundamentalist, you concentrate on equality and cohesion (left wing claptrap). When people like Ms Sieghart and I concentrate on a real problem we could all do something about (squandered talent/unfulfilled potential), you complain that trying to help clever kids who are trapped in schools where they are unable to make the most of their abilities is a bad thing. Weird.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 23/05/2012 - 10:52

“Social mobility for all” is like “excellence for all” just an empty and meaningless slogan.

It is at the minute because the people who are chanting it are totally disconnected from those who are capable of understanding what it means in practice.

Allan Beavis's picture
Thu, 24/05/2012 - 10:00

Tarr -

1. You talk in extremes. You don't have to "excel" at something to be given the opportunity and culture for social mobility. Under the present government, policies and ideologies has led to even greater inequality. Gove had the empty slogan when he stood up at a private school, pretending to criticise the effect of private schools in stifling mobility. I think we are agreed that "Social mobility" and "excellence" for some is the real Tory ideology.

2. Squandered talent an unfulfilled potential isn't the exclusive right of those deemed "bright" at 11 by dint of a standardized test or those unlucky enough to have spent their formative years cloistered away in a private school to be over educated beyond their natural intelligence so they can bag a "top job".

3. I have never said that clever kids should not make the most of their abilities. What I am saying is that all kids should be given equal chances to make the most of their abilities. As you say, not everyone can excel but they can improve, engage and learn to love learning. What is weird is your desperate attempts to misinterpret and smear whilst revealing your own motives. I am about as much of an egalitiarian fundamentalist as you are a fascist.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 10:33

Ms Sieghart's article shows woeful ignorance of two things: the composition of grammar school pupils and international research.

Firstly, grammar schools take very small numbers of FSM pupils. In Kent the proportion of pupils eligible for free schools meals in 2011 was 15.3%. Harvey Grammar School (Boys), Folkestone, was exceptional in having 7.3% but most Kent grammars have around 2-3%. Some have 0% (Tonbridge Girls, Cranbook VA).

Secondly, international evidence from the OECD found that the best-performing educational systems globally are those which are the most equitable. They don't segregate children academically or geographically.

As well as showing her ignorance of the above, Ms Sieghart misquotes recent figures from the Sutton Trust Teacher View survey. She said just under half of teachers didn't recommend Oxbridge to pupils with high academic ability. The actual figure was 19% (which is still high, but far less than Sieghard reported).

Ricky suggest judging schools by the Oxbridge quotient - this is potentially misleading. There may be reasons why Oxbridge is not the best choice - subject required (dentistry, for example is not available at Oxbridge), closeness to home, cost and so on. If schools are judged on how many of their pupils go to Oxbridge, then this could result in schools persuading pupils to apply there even if it is not in the pupil's best interest.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110629/text... (free school meals Kent)

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/61/2/48631582.pdf (page 455)



Ricky-Tarr's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 11:17


Ricky suggest judging schools by the Oxbridge quotient – this is potentially misleading.

Not misleading at all, given what Ms Sieghart actually said:

…if you are bright but poor and you live in Kent, Essex, Buckinghamshire or Northern Ireland.... You have nearly the same chance of becoming a cabinet minister, a judge, a newspaper editor or a top rower as your privately educated neighbour.

I would have thought that Oxbridge correlates very strongly with being a cabinet minister, a judge, a newspaper editor or a rower. And dentistry doesn't enter into it.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 11:46

Ricky - I was referring to schools being judged by how many pupils are accepted by Oxbridge. Ms Sieghart misquoted the proportion of teachers who never advised pupils to apply to Oxbridge - I was giving a reason why teachers might not always give such advice. The question referred to Oxbridge not the route to becoming one of the four examples given by Ms Sieghart.

You quote Ms Sieghart's comment re poor, right children having "nearly" the same chance as becoming a member of the cabinet and so on, even a "top rower" (is that "row" as in pulling oars or "row" in the sense of having a noisy argument?). If you read my post again you will see that I disputed this with evidence.

Perhaps the Cabinet, the judiciary and newspaper editorships would be better for not recruited disproportionately from Oxbridge but a discussion about this risks going off thread - the question was about Ms Sieghart's contention that more grammar schools would increase social mobility. They don't and they wouldn't.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 23/05/2012 - 10:53


Chrris Cook, in the article cited in the OP, quoted the passage that I reproduced in bold above - and then took issue with it by producing graphs showing average GCSE results across various counties.

My point (which you wrongly construed as a call for schools to be 'jusged by Oxbridge admissions') was merely that Cook's graphs didn't test or refute Sieghart's point at all. The proper test of whether Sieghart was right or wrong (on this particular point) would be an Oxbridge comparison. This is so self-evident, I don't know why I'm having to labour it.

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