National Grammar Schools Association
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7th May 2012

NEWS RELEASE: Report on grammar schools is ‘deeply flawed’.

A report highlighted in the media on 3 May 2012, which was published by The Schools Network (formerly the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust),  is ‘deeply flawed’, says Robert McCartney QC, chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association.

The author of the report, Great Expectations, is Professor David Jesson, who has been openly hostile to grammar schools and genuine parental choice for around two decades.   

Great Expectations notes that grammar schools ‘differ substantially in their  outcomes…inevitably prompting questions as to why this should be the case’.  Grammar schools may, indeed, differ in their outcomes, as would be expected.  But they are all high-achieving when compared with other types of state secondary school. 

Professor Jesson recommends that because grammar schools produce such excellent results, their performance should be measured by the percentage of their pupils achieving 5 or more A*-A grade GCSEs (including English and maths) instead of the 5 or more A*-C grade measure (including English and maths) used for comprehensive schools.   It is, of course, grossly unfair and nonsensical to suggest comparing schools using different criteria according to their type.  To do this would be totally misleading.  

Professor Jesson is also remiss in that he takes no account of the different subjects taken:  grammar school pupils usually take ‘harder’ GCSEs, such as chemistry, physics, foreign languages,  geography or history.  Pupils in comprehensive schools often take English and maths along with ‘softer’ subjects such as media studies, psychology, or even hair and beauty or information technology which may count for up to 4 GCSEs.  Why doesn’t Professor Jesson consider this?   

The report notes that grammar schools in Outer London and the West Midlands produce better results than those in East and South East England.  Of course, they do because grammar schools in or near large conurbations have many more applicants than grammar schools on the east coast, where half their catchment areas may be open sea.

Department for Education figures for 2011 show the average percentages of 16-year-olds achieving the government’s basic EBac standard (5 or more good GCSE passes in English, maths, science, a foreign language and geography or history) by type of school and by local authority. In selective grammar schools, it was 68.1%; in independent schools, 48.2%; in comprehensive schools, 13.7%; in academies, 8.0% little better than the average for the few remaining modern schools, where it was 6.7%.  (Please note that in future, the academies’ percentage may improve dramatically because so many high-achieving grammar schools have now become academies.)  

‘When only 8% of academy pupils achieved the EBac standard last year, is it reasonable to suggest that there are more pressing problems to occupy The Schools Network than giving space to  a subtle attack on high-achieving grammar schools and the principle of parental choice?’ asks Robert McCartney. 


For further information or comment, please contact:

Robert McCartney, Tel. 0208 347 7638 or 02890 424006 or

Nick Seaton, Tel. 01904 424134 or 07775 656608