Angry about the 11+ ? Worried about unfair school admissions? Then read on....

Melissa Benn's picture
Please come to this important Comprehensive Future conference
Selection – the growing threat

Saturday 21st November
11.00 am - 3.30 pm
Abbey Community Centre, 34 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BU

The aim of this conference is to bring together those across the country who share concerns about selection at 11 and the growing problem of unfair school admissions and want to do something about it. With the current Conservative government considering expanding the country's grammars and the Labour party led, for the first time in its history, by someone who has consistently opposed selection we are at a new and important moment in terms of the future of our schools.

•Registration and coffee• 10.15 am onwards

•Welcome• 11.00 am

Chair, Melissa Benn

•Selection – the damage continues• 11.05 am - 12.30pm

Chair, Fiona Millar (Vice Chair, Comprehensive Future)
Speakers from Kent, Bucks, Birmingham, Lincolnshire


•The admissions quagmire• 1.15 pm - 2.15 pm

Chair, Laura McInerney (Editor, Schools Week)

Speakers, Rebecca Allen (Education Datalab), Jay Harman (Fair Admissions campaign), Fiona Millar (journalist), Alan Parker (ex Schools Adjudicator)

•Upholding the comprehensive principle• 2.15 pm - 3.30 pm

Chair, Melissa Benn (Chair, Comprehensive Future)

Speakers, Dame Sue John (former headteacher and Director, London Leadership Strategy), Caroline Lucas MP, Pat McGuckian (St Patrick’s High School, Co Armagh, Northern Ireland), Kate Osamor MP (TBC), Jonathan Simons (Policy Exchange)

•Tea and end of conference• to be followed by the
Comprehensive Future AGM
4.00 pm - 4.30 pm

•Book now• at or send a cheque for £10 ( which includes lunch) payable to Comprehensive Future, with your contact details, to Comprehensive Future, PO Box 444327 London SW20 0WD

•Enquiries• Contact Margaret Tulloch, Secretary, info@comprehensivefuture.
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mistemina's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 10:37

Yes Melissa, I am angry about the 11+ and worried about unfair school admissions?
I also find it morally moribund, elitist and has a very nasty manipulative effect on parents.
I will be there. The loudest applauder to anything anti-selection said, will be me.

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 11:37

In Lincolnshire, more specifically along the the coastal strip, we divide children at 11+ but parents have no say. What really frustrates the heck out of me is the lack of political representation, as opposed to leadership. Rejection at 11+ goes deeper than schooling, in terms of politics it alters people's perceptions as to who is capable of saying and doing.

Barry Wise's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 12:47

In what sense do parents have no say? There are elections in Lincolnshire!

That said, I see that not only did the party that came top (Conservatives) at the last local elections support selection, but the party that came second (UKIP) were even more keen. Mablethorpe seems to have voted UKIP.

Presumably there are Labour candidates?

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 13:22

Yes, the sea of blue in Lincs pretty much assures children on the coast will continue to be divided into sheep and goats. Other independent parties have taken seats on here for obvious reasons, but mainly because voters are pensioners worried by the media. They don't care to understand the complex issues that surround selective education in combination with deprivation. Labour is working hard to prevent the closure of the school in Mablethorpe. Perhaps nearby schools may choose to help them.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 15:06

Barry - Lincolnshire voters would vote for the Devil if he wore blue horns. Schools Week published odds on how likely it was for some candidates to be elected. They calculated if you put £200 on Nick Boles, Tory candidate for Grantham and Stamford, to get elected you would win just £1. That's why Boles was parachuted into the constituency - it was such a safe Tory seat he was guaranteed to be get in.

(Note - if you check and tell me that Stamford was Labour before the 2010 election, you would be right. But that's only by default. Tory Quentin Davies crossed the floor of the House of Commons and joined Labour in 2007. He was branded a traitor.)

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 16:53

I voted Labour because I'm fed-up with 'independent' party reps. parachuting themselves into the coast to have a go at politics. They take on pet projects to gain popularity but don't have the knowledge or experience to tackle inequalities that affect education. They are every Tory's dream.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 15:26

Schools Week reports that Swindon Academy is planning to introduce a test for selection into its 'grammar' stream. This is in breach of the Schools Admission Code which says admission authorities must not introduce any new selection by ability. (Para 1.9 d).

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Sun, 27/09/2015 - 11:12

Following on...
This is a link to an article about the closure of Mablethorpe's school. If it's closed it will take the heart out of the community.

I attended the public meeting at the Mablethorpe site and made the point that the 11+, academies (competition), league tables and 40% child poverty ( ), are linked to falling numbers at the school (60% of parents 'choose' to send their children elsewhere).

I asked if grammar schools in the immediate area could help Mablethorpe out. Looking at the newspaper article, I don't think my points were recorded.

mistemina's picture
Sun, 27/09/2015 - 12:48

Alan, a suggestion for you to consider.
My quick research says in 2014, Lincolnshire’s gap was 30.6%. This is the traditionally accepted Gap illustrating the difference between non-FSM pupils and FSM pupils achieving 5 A*-C GCSE including English and Maths.
The gap between Grammars and FSM will be even bigger.

In Bucks the Gap is 41%, in Brent 13%, in Inner London, Coventry and Manchester, it is even lower.

Try a letter to the Editor of the local newspaper; very likely the first or even the second letter will be rejected, but then their ears will prick up especially if the subject is controversial - More sales of their paper, you see.

PS. They will tell you how fabulously low the Gap is in Early Years and Primaries. Hokum, spin, ignore this or better still tell them this is so everywhere. Beside the fatal effects of Selection kicks in after Primary School.

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Sun, 27/09/2015 - 14:08

Thanks John. The gap is unacceptable. But the pro selectionists will still argue the % of children on FSM is a poor indicator of deprivation, etc, and that the difference can be explained by the fact that grammar schools are situated in more affluent areas. The underlying gap of economic inequality that undermines schools, between, and, within council wards (that are only about 6 miles away) is generally ignored. As there are below-floor target schools in areas that retain the 11+, where schools skim-off higher-attaining children, this leaves other schools with children who need more support. Competition between non selective academies for the remaining children means some schools will inevitably lose funding and will need to close, as may be the case in Mablethorpe.

Re primary schools - I agree. Another important point is that Lincolnshire's primaries are all comprehensive.

I will write to the newspaper.

mistemina's picture
Sun, 27/09/2015 - 16:53

Yes Alan, the misguided supporters of selection try desperately to say anything e.g. we have had the 'Grammars in rich ares', there is also another excuse 'the Gap is large in (Fill in any LA) because the Grammars raise the standards of thier pupil really high.
You already know this is all more hokum and spin.

The simple fact remains that all LA are totally responsible for the ALL children and ALL schools in their area. They will plead that with academies (all Grammars are academies) they cannot control admissions.
More hokum and spin, LA have many tools to rectify these problems.
If they do not do this, they are not only behaving immorally, but actually breaking the law.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 28/09/2015 - 09:35

John - the argument that grammars tend to be in more affluent areas therefore the proportion of FSM children will be low doesn't stand up to scrutiny. The proportion of FSM children in selective schools is still lower, often much lower, than the average for the area. For example, in Lincolnshire the proportion of pupils who've been eligible for FSM any time in the last six years (FSM6) is 21% for secondary schools. This is below the national secondary school proportion of 28.6%. The selective school with the highest proportion, Skegness Grammar, has 11.8%. Non-selective Skegness Academy, on the other hand, has 48.2% FSM6 children.

The same pattern is seen in other selective counties eg Kent, Buckinghamshire, Medway, Trafford.

Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 28/09/2015 - 11:44


I'm not sure you should expect Lincolnshire grammars to be admitting many disadvantaged children anyway. Given that grammars aim to cream off the top 25% or so of the ability range, you'd expect them to be focusing on children achieving level 5 in reading, writing and maths.

But in Lincs, only 9% of disadvantaged primary school students achieved level 5 at KS2 in 2014.

That's probably only around 150 children in the whole county.... or 9 per grammar school.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 28/09/2015 - 12:14

Barry - the argument put forward in favour of selection is that it gives a leg up to disadvantaged children. But as we've seen, grammars take few FSM children.

You argue that if Lincs grammars only recruit disadvantaged children who achieve Level 5, it works out at roughly nine per grammar. That is, of course, each year. Given that grammars have seven years (Y7-13), then the number of Level 5 disadvantaged children per grammar would be roughly 63. But only three of Lincs grammars are near this number: Queen Elizabeth's High School (Gainsborough) with 66 (7.3% of school roll), Spalding Grammar (Boys) 63 (8.8%) and Spalding High (Girls) 60 (8.2%).

That's assuming, of course, the grammar school intake comprises only those pupils who gain Level 5. And this is where selection falls down. Grammar school intake in Lincs comprises previously middle-attaining pupils (Level 4) as well as previously high ones(Level 5 and above). Presumably these pupils passed the 11+ but their Sats results didn't bear this out. For example, looking at the 2014 GCSE cohort:

Boston Grammar: 71% previously high attainers, 29% previously middle attainers.
Boston High: 78%, 22% and, unbelievably, one pupil who was a previously low attainer
Bourne Grammar: 84%, 16%
Carre's Grammar: 78%, 22%
Kesteven and Grantham Girls':79%, 21%
Skegness Grammar: 60%, 40%.

Presumably, if the grammars are sweeping up pupils from the middle range, they would be taking in more disadvantaged pupils.

Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 28/09/2015 - 12:58


I think there's a problem in seeing the world entirely in terms of FSM and non-FSM.

The supposed 'social mobility' argument associated with grammar schools has been traditionally that grammar schools have given a leg-up to working class kids. That is, that grammars were a way that children whose parents who could not afford school fees could achieve outcomes comparable to those at private schools. In the past that was mainly about access to uni.

But FSM-qualifying children are not typical working class. In fact, you have to be either unemployed or working only part time to qualify really. I think the cut off is around £17k of household income. For comparison, the average pay of a bus driver is £22k.

Looking at your figures for Lincolnshire schools (and ones you don't cite such as Caistor) it looks as if typically around 80% of the 2014 GCSE cohort in Lincolnshire grammars was made up of Level 5 achievers.... and as you say some middle attainers, probably 4b+. (And this would be for whatever the L5 figures were five years ago.)

But my point still holds good. There don't seem to be huge numbers of disadvantaged children with L5 being turned away by Lincolnshire grammars. On the contrary, it looks as if the grammars are scooping most of them up.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 29/09/2015 - 08:43

Barry - you mention Caistor which had 91% previously high attaining (Level 5 pupils) and 9% previously middle attainers (Level 4) in the 2014 GCSE cohort. There were just 4 FSM pupils. Are we to conclude from that there were only 4 FSM pupils who gained Level 5 in the Caistor area (West Lindsey) 5 years before? (Couldn't find this data).

You're right that FSM doesn't mean working class. In the supposed golden age of grammars, when there were far more 'working class' people than now, nearly 40% of all grammar students from whatever background failed to get more than 3 O levels. Only 0.3% of those who eventually gained 2 A levels were from the skilled working class. Not much of a leg up there.

That's more of an argument NOT to compare grammars today with those of yesterday (as pro-grammar lobbyists do) - society has changed: the so-called middle-class has grown, traditional working class jobs is much reduced, families are smaller - parents can invest more resources, attention on a smaller number of children; parents themselves are more educated; children aren't expected to contribute to the family income when they leave school. At the same time, FSM eligibility is a crude measure of disadvantage. Unfortunately, it's the only measure we have at present.

CORRECTION. The original comments said the 2014 GCSE cohort at Caistor comprised just 4 pupils. This was the number of FSM pupils not the whole cohort (obviously - don't know why I didn't notice it at the time of posting). It has now been corrected.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 29/09/2015 - 08:51

Barry - a tongue-in-cheek comment about the social composition of grammars (in Lincs or elsewhere) would be to look at the cars in the grammar school run. One parent of a grammar pupil told me (with a grin) that his battered banger looked rather out of place among the 4x4s and top of the range motors.

Perhaps there should be a new measure of 'disadvantage' based on the type and number of cars in a household.

agov's picture
Sat, 03/10/2015 - 10:47

"Only 0.3% of those who eventually gained 2 A levels were from the skilled working class."

Just to be picky, if that were so, it might leave open the possibility of some percentage of the unskilled working class having obtained 2 A levels.

The PX link you gave actually says "fewer than 0.3 per cent of pupils leaving with two A-levels were from the unskilled working class", which would leave open the possibility of some from the skilled working class having got 2 A levels, unless 'working class' is taken to mean unskilled.

Probably doesn't make much difference though.

mistemina's picture
Mon, 28/09/2015 - 16:05

Barry we can assure you, in Bucks there has proven to be little or no underachieving cohort in our Grammars. Those PP pupil that will (as you say) be there from temp unemployed or part-timers.
Grammars are not scooping any FSM, or PP pupil or any of our other traditionally underachieving cohorts. No matter how hard we look, Grammars do not and have not offered Social Mobility in decades; now their cozy (I would say rich and lazy) world has been outed. In Nov 2014, The Bucks Grammar School Assoc Chair admitted two points to the Bucks Select Committee:
1. Education in Bucks is not equal.
2. There was next to no Social Mobility sponsored by the Grammar School System.

For me, it is time to take the bickers of spin off, and smell the coffee.
(As long spin expounding the equality in Grammars continues, i will continue with grating mixed metaphors)

Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 28/09/2015 - 18:53


Bucks primary schools produced 107 disadvantaged children attaining Level 5 in reading, writing and Maths last year.

In the same year, the Bucks grammar schools' GCSE cohort included 66 students from disadvantaged homes.

Not perfect, not directly proportional; but arguably not 'nothing'.


Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 29/09/2015 - 09:08

To buy tickets - link above wouldn't work. Try

Nigel Ford's picture
Tue, 29/09/2015 - 09:14

I'm opposed to selection at 11 or any age, but I would almost trade off the old grammar/sec mod system if it meant all non private schools were under LA control, than have this current hotch potch of free school, sponsored academies, state academies and council schools that this gov't have currently undertaken.

Incidentally, if the Daily Telegraph are to be believed, Corbyn seems to be backtracking on free schools as his Education spokesperson has said she wouldn't necessarily intervene where these schools are not selling their pupils short.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 29/09/2015 - 10:03

Nigel - Corbyn told the Guardian he would want academies and free schools to return to 'the local authority orbit'. That's been interpreted as bringing them under LA 'control'. But as we know (and I wish Lucy Powell had said this on Today this morning when asked about returning schools to LA 'control') schools haven't been under LA control since Local Management of Schools was introduced over 25 years ago (if they ever were). However, in the Guardian, Powell talks of LA 'oversight' not 'control'.

Returning academies/free schools to LA stewardship (ie turning them into community schools) was never going to happen. It would be too expensive to overturn the legalities. What Powell is suggesting is that LAs have the power to intervene in free schools and academies when necessary.

I would suggest she go further: make it mandatory for academies/free schools to have an LA appointed governor; ensure each academy in a multi-academy trust has its own governing body and is not overseen by one central governing body at head office; return autonomy to heads of academies in MATs whose freedom has been taken from them by the MAT.

mistemina's picture
Tue, 29/09/2015 - 17:10

Thanks Barry, may i see the Link please.
PS. I will be away from Friday, so please do not construe my silence as being rude.

Barry Wise's picture
Wed, 30/09/2015 - 09:05

John .... the figures were taken from the performance tables here:

mistemina's picture
Wed, 30/09/2015 - 14:06

Thank you Barry, interesting.
I do not get the 66 - probably because i am rushed. However, i will accept it for thus discussion. From anecdotal experience, this figure is high.
The howls of 'Unfair' become significant (I acknowledge you have mentioned disproportionality already) when one see all most 2000 FSM children went to Sec Mod and SEN taken by Grammars is sometimes in fractions of 1%

Add to all this misery, the fact the Grammars regularly direct parents to get thier child to drop subjects which will not yield As.
Managed Moves, common practice in High Wycombe to cooperate between themselves to place badly behaved pupils with each other, I approve, good for the child, stops pupil being branded and Sec Mod schools not getting too many exclusions.
It has transpired that Grammar Schools are placing children into Sec Mods!!!
Not between themselves!
The bile rises.

David Barry's picture
Tue, 29/09/2015 - 17:17


According to the Labour party website this is the part of Jeremy Corbyns' leader speech, made today, that referred to Academies and Free Schools (by clear implication):

"The economy of the future depends on the investment we make today in infrastructure, skills, and schools.

I’m delighted that Lucy Powell is our new shadow Education Secretary.
She has already set out how the education of every child and the quality of every school counts.

Every school accountable to local government, not bringing back selection.
We have aspirations for all children, not just a few."

The phrase that jumps out at me is:

"Every school accountable to local government"

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Tue, 29/09/2015 - 18:22

Barry - Starting from a position of fairness and less competition would help every child to do well. Rejection at 11+ can't claim to do that. It is cheating.

Barry Wise's picture
Wed, 30/09/2015 - 14:59


By trying it another way I get 61.......

Here's the school-by-school breakdown:

RGS High Wycombe – 8
Wycombe High School – 10
Chesham GS - 2
Aylesbury GS - 2
Aylesbury High School – 4
Dr Challoner’s GS – 2
Royal Latin – 8
John Hampden – 3
Sir Henry Floyd – 10
Dr Challoner’s High – 1
Burnham GS – 10
Sir William Borlase’s GS - 1

mistemina's picture
Thu, 01/10/2015 - 09:07

Thank you Barry, helpful and reveling. Assume the figures following the Grammars listed are the PP/FSM they taken. I will show this list to some concerned activists in Bucks, with a caveat that there can be no liability to you.

RGS High Wycombe – 8
Wycombe High School – 10
Chesham GS – 2
Aylesbury GS– 2
Aylesbury High School – 4
Dr Challoner’s GS – 2
Royal Latin – 8
John Hampden – 3
Sir Henry Floyd – 10
Dr Challoner’s High – 1
Burnham GS – 10
Sir William Borlase’s GS – 1

We can agree these are very low.
1. As a comparative, John Hampden took 3, Cressex (Nearby Sec Mod) took appox 40% i.e. 400.
3. Soon as you step away from S Bucks PP/FSM are virtually non-existent.
4. We do not know how many of the PP/FSM are from outside County.
I will suggest pro-Grammar's argument about championing Social Mobility is now dead in the water.

Barry Wise's picture
Thu, 01/10/2015 - 10:33


Hold on ……!

These figures are for one year (the 2014 GCSE cohort), not the whole school!

For reasons I described earlier, I don’t think you can judge social mobility by counting only FSM students. The child of a single mother working in the NHS as a midwife, or the child of a family running a corner-shop, for instance, would NOT qualify for FSM, yet they might look to a grammar school to help win social mobility.

The figures do suggest more could be done, but you shouldn’t exaggerate the scale of the underperformance.

So what is the scale of the underperformance?

Back in 2007 the Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring at Durham University did a study that compared the social make up of grammars arising out of selection with the 11+ with what the social make-up would have been if the schools had simply taken the top 25% of the local cohort using KS2 SATS scores (roughly corresponding with those getting L5 – which is why I was using that same approach above).

The CEM found that if access to grammar schools was determined purely by Key Stage 2 scores at least another 500 high achieving FSM pupils would be admitted across 164 grammar schools. That would mean each grammar school taking an extra 3 FSM children per year.

3 children per year per grammar. Not a huge problem, you’d think. I am amazed that the grammars have been so slow to make the small correction needed. It is not as if the Sutton Trust hadn’t made very clear what the situation was.

Rebecca Hickman's picture
Thu, 01/10/2015 - 12:50

In 2014, out of the 271 children currently in receipt free school meals in Bucks, 7 passed the 11+ exam - a pass rate of less than 3% compared to the 30% average.
(The DfE figures look at the larger group of children who have been in receipt of FSM within the last 6 years.)

Leah K Stewart's picture
Mon, 05/10/2015 - 14:41

Alan & Melissa. Thanks for your encouragement for me to attend this conference. I've just bought my ticket and am so excited to see you both and others from the LSN in person!

Many of you know my thoughts on this (as a low-income, Lincs grammar student now in my 20's) in terms of "What's the point of forced student selection into schools?" For fun I made a little comic of things that happen in schools:

If you'd like a 'student representative' from Lincs to stand up and say something, perhaps in 'the damage continues' section, just let me know. Happy to help more actively where I can. Just pop me an email or message me from my blog;

See you all in November!

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