National Grammar Schools Association
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To: The Editor, Parliamentary Brief.
From: Nick Seaton, Chairman, Campaign for Real Education.

Dear Sir,

In his article in Parliamentary Brief (August, 2001) Professor David Jesson asks 'where's the evidence?' that selective schools offer the 'best education'. He implies that no statistics or conclusions other than those produced by himself and his ideological allies exist or have ever been published. He also claims that 'selective education depresses the performance of whole communities' by suggesting that youngsters who fail to win places in grammar schools, where they exist, do not do as well as they should.

His further claim that supporters of grammar schools do not consider results from secondary modern schools alongside those of grammar schools is simply untrue.

For example, in Standards in English Schools: Second Report (National Council for Educational Standards, 1985), Dr John Marks and Maciej Pomian-Srzednicki found that, taken together, pupils at grammar and secondary modern schools obtained between 30 and 40 per cent more O-level passes than pupils at comprehensives.

In The Betrayed Generations (Centre for Policy Studies, 2000), where he looked at examination results over the last fifty years, Dr Marks found that 'selection is better for all pupils and not just those selected to attend grammar schools. The average advantage is about 25 per cent for GCSE and more for basic subjects like English and Mathematics, and about 20 per cent or 18 months of progress at the age of 14. The good overall performance of a selective system is, in part, due to the widely under-rated secondary modern schools.'

He also found that 'The [5 A*-C grade GCSE] figures for Northern Ireland (which has retained its selective schools)... are about 10 per cent absolutely and 40 per cent relatively above those for England.'

In Grammar Schools in the 21st Century, (National Grammar Schools Association, 2001), Fred Naylor reveals that today's secondary modern schools have nearly twice the success rate in 16-plus examinations as did the WHOLE of the maintained sector in 1967. Also that higher grade 16-plus exam passes in secondary modern schools have risen 16-fold between 1967 and the present day - from 2.1 per cent to 32.8 per cent.

When some of his previous conclusions were challenged by Professor S. J. Prais in 'Grammar Schools' Achievements and the DfEE's Measures of Value-added: an attempt at clarification' (Oxford Review of Education, Vol. 27, No. 1, 2001), Professor Jesson 'retracted his findings' and admitted to The Daily Telegraph (21 May 2001) that his 'Anti-grammar school data was wrong'.

In Parliamentary Brief, Professor Jesson even gets the number of grammar schools wrong! An honest debate on the merits of selective versus comprehensive education is welcome. But to undermine good selective schools purely for political purposes is not only misleading, it does a grave injustice to the schools concerned.

Yours faithfully, Nick Seaton.