Friday 3 April 2015

Grammar Schools (and Farage)

In the election debate, Farage said that grammar schools shouldn't have been abolished because they gave clever working class children a ladder up…or words to that effect.

The facts are this: in England and Wales, from 1947-1970 about 7 million children failed their 11 plus exam and went to Secondary Modern Schools. Very few of these children stayed on at school long enough to get any qualifications at all. This affected their rate of pay for the rest of their lives.

From 1947-1970 about 3.5 million children went to grammar school and about 1 million went to technical school.

About 15 per cent of all children attending all secondary schools in this period can be described as 'relatively disadvantaged' and gaining from having a grammar school education.

In numerical terms this is about 1.8 million. 

For Farage to be correct, he would have to prove that the same number of pupils between, let's say 1970 and 1993, were prevented from receiving the equivalent of a grammar school education by being in comprehensive schools. 

Can he? Or anyone else? 

Meanwhile, he would  have to balance whatever advantage was given to the 1.8 million 'relatively disadvantaged' pupils at grammar school with the effects of a secondary modern education on 7 million. 

Data from:

Date of birth, family background, and the 11 plus exam: short- and long-term consequences of the 1944 secondary education reforms in England and Wales
Robert A. Hart 
Mirko Moro
J. Elizabeth Roberts

Stirling Economics Discussion Paper 2012-10 May 2012
Online at

nb I've rounded some of the numbers and extended the data from 1964 to 1970 according to the graph given in the article. I'm happy to revise any of the figures above, if I've got them wrong.