National Grammar Schools Association
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"Pupils fall year behind at all-in Schools"

19th October 2001 - The Daily Telegraph

"Further evidence of the importance of Grammar Schools in Selective areas is demonstrated by the latest research from N.F.E.R. - The impact of Selection on Pupil Performance" by Ian Schagen and Sandie Schagen, presented at the NFER Council meeting 19th Oct 2001. This endorsement of selection in secondary education is being notably ignored by the anti-grammar school lobby - and has not been deemed worthy of mention in the TES"

The following is an extract from the Daily Telegraph-John Clarke - Education Editor - 19 October 2001.

Pupils do better at grammar and secondary modern schools than at comprehensives, both overall and in most ability ranges, the most authoritative study of its type showed.

The study's most striking conclusion was that children of average and above-average ability at comprehensives fall a year behind those at grammar schools because their teachers fail to "create a climate of high achievement and aspirations".

Children of lower abilities also did slightly better at secondary moderns than comprehensives, the study found.

Only among children of the highest ability was there any evidence that comprehensives performed as well as or better than selective schools, and even then it was not conclusive.

The report, published by the National Foundation for Educational Research, which is funded by local education authorities, stopped short of recommending the re introduction of selection.

Instead, it suggested that comprehensive authorities "may wish to consider whether it is possible to replicate the 'grammar school effect' in a totally different context."

Unlike much previous research, which claimed to show that the comprehensive system was superior, this study measured the progress pupils made in different kinds of schools over five years from 11 to 16.

Earlier research, often criticised for being politically biased, has effectively ignored the first three years of secondary education.

Because the data does not yet exist to carry out a single analysis of pupils' progress from Key Stage 2 to GCSE, the researchers, Ian and Sandie Schagen, studies two separate groups - one from Key Stage 2 in 1997 to Key Stage 3 in 2000, and one from Key Stage 3 in 1998 to GCSE in 2000.

They compared the value schools added in three types of local education authority: those with fully comprehensive systems: those with up to 20 per cent of secondary pupils in grammar schools (low selection); and those with more than 20 per cent in grammar schools (high selection).

Studying the progress pupils made from Key State 2 (age 11) to 3 (aged 14), the researchers found that the selective authorities achieved significantly better results overall than comprehensive ones.

In particular, 14 year-olds in grammar schools were a year ahead of pupils of the same ability who attended comprehensive schools, while those at comprehensives did not better than those who went to secondary moderns.

"Selective systems obtain good results, particularly at Key Stage 3, because the grammar schools are remarkably successful in enhancing the performance of their least able pupils - the ones who gain their grammar school places by a relatively narrow margin," said the report.

"There is a common view that borderline pupils fare better at the top of secondary modern schools, rather than struggling in grammar schools: our research completely contradicts that assumption."

The main reason for the pupils' success was that the grammar school teachers had high expectations. Comparing the progress pupils in the second group made from Key Stage 3 to GCSE, the study found that those in low selection areas - where the grammars are most selective - did slightly better overall than those in comprehensive areas, while those in high selection areas did slightly worse.

In this group, pupils of average ability performed significantly better in grammar schools than they did in comprehensives, while those in secondary moderns did not perform quite so well.

However, given that Key Stage 3 results formed the foundation of GCSE work, the report said it was reasonable to hypothesise that selective systems produce somewhat better results overall.

It went on:"It would be difficult, at present, for any local education authority to completely change their system of secondary education. Authorities which still have their selection can become comprehensive only if eligible parents vote for change.

"While there is no equivalent legislation governing comprehensive authorities, it is unlikely that they would be given permission to become selective, even supposing they wished to do so.

"The challenge for comprehensive schools will be to create a climate of high achievement and aspirations, so that their pupils of average ability perform at the level reached by those in grammar schools."