National Grammar Schools Association
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Anti-grammar schools data was wrong

21 May 2001 - Newspaper

In November 1999, Professor David Jesson of the Centre for Performance Evaluation and Resource Management, University of York, claimed that 'very able pupils in comprehensive schools do as well as their counterparts in grammar schools' and that there was 'no advantage for these pupils in attending a grammar as opposed to a comprehensive school'.

When he made these claims, Professor Jesson had not published the exact data on which his claims were based, thus making it impossible to verify or contradict them. Since then, however, his work has been published and it has been strongly criticised by Dr John Marks among others.

Now, Professor Jesson's claims have again been examined, this time by Professor S.J. Prais, whose paper on the subject was recently published in the Oxford Review of Education, Vol. 27, No. 1, 2001. ("Grammar School's Acheivements and the DfEE's Measures of Value-added: an attempt at clarification')?

In his original paper, based on Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) data, Professor Jesson claimed there was 'no evidence for the superiority of either grammar schools nor selective systems of educational provision; indeed any advantages appear to lie with those schools and systems organised on non selective lines.'

By contrast and after examining the same DfEE data, Professor Prais concludes that, 'as measuring rods' the DfEE data was 'hardly adequate, but insofar as they are used for these purposes, the results indicate precisely the opposite: namely the greater average progress (greater 'value-added') for grammar schools, and for high-attaining pupils in grammar schools.'

It should be stressed that Professor Jesson was supplied with a pre-publication copy of Professor Prais's paper and he agreed with its conclusions. On 21 May 2001, it was reported in The Daily Telegraph that the 'Anti-grammar school data was wrong' and that Professor Jesson had 'retracted his findings'.

Further information or comment from:

Brian Wills-Pope, Tel. 01803 295315 (work)
John Harris, Tel. 01227 830631
Stan Danks, Tel. 0121 544 3809
Elspeth Insch, Tel. 0121 554 2342 (school)
Professor S.J. Prais,Tel. 0207 222 7665