August 10, 2016

Roll on the grammar school revolution

Roll on the grammar school revolution

While there are legitimate concerns regarding grammar schools, being opposed to the principle of academic selection is misguided, argues Comment Central.

The announcement last weekend that Theresa May is planning to launch a new generation of grammar schools has been met with hostility from both sides of the House. Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs have vowed to fight the move, while Conservative MP Neil Carmichael, chairman of the Education Select Committee is also reported to oppose the decision.

Opponents of grammar schools claim that rather than being vehicles for social mobility they actually reinforces class divides and support middle class privilege. Middle class parents, they argue, invest vast sums of money to employ private tutors to coach their children ahead of the 11-plus. The incentive is clearly there: shell out for the cost of a private tutor now, and save a fortune on private school fees later.

And what’s more, the evidence supports this argument. A 2013 study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies together with Cambridge University found that among high achievers, those who are eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) or who live in poorer neighborhoods are significantly less likely to go to a grammar school. Crucially, though, their gripe is not with the principle of academic selection per se, but merely that the 11-plus in its current guise fails to be meritocratic due to middle class parents coaching their children. So, what if we could design a test in such a way that it more accurately assesses raw academic ability?

Similar to A-Levels, in the US prospective university students are required to sit their SAT. The standardised test is widely used for college and university admissions and is scored out of a combined total of 1600 points. Despite SAT prep courses and SAT prep tutoring being big business in the US, the evidence to support their usefulness doesn’t seem to stack up. Two studies conducted a decade apart show little evidence that intensive coaching is worthwhile. The first of the studies, carried out by the College Board in the mid-nineties, found that coached students were only marginally more likely to have large score gains than their non-coached peers. Furthermore, roughly one-third of those students studied saw no score increase, or even a score decrease, following coaching. On average, the study found coached pupils were thought to receive an eight-point net gain on their verbal test scores, and 18 points on their maths scores. The findings were further reinforced by a 2009 study by the National Association of College Admission Counselling (NACAC), which found coaching improved critical reading and maths scores by 10 and 20 points respectively. While 20 points could mean the difference between getting a university place and not, when taken in the context of an overall possible score of 1600, these marginal score improvements seem to suggest it is possible to design a test that is relatively ‘tutor-proof’.

Another important criticism often levelled against academic selection at the age of 11 is that is unfairly penalises late developers who have yet to reach their full academic potential. But a number of existing grammar schools already account for this problem via the ‘late transfer procedure’ more often known as the 12 or 13-plus, which permits children that failed to secure a grammar school place to try again when they are more academically mature.

Criticism of the existing grammar school system is not without merit, but being opposed to the principle of academic selection is misguided.

4.71 avg. rating (93% score) - 7 votes
Comment Central
Comment Central
Setup in 2016, Comment Central is a forum for policy debate and discussion. Editorially free-market, the site is intended to mirror the portfolios of Government, it therefore covers a broad range of topics, including commentary and analysis regarding the latest healthcare reforms, to musings about the state of play in US politics.
  • Shadow Warrior

    Hammond is continuity Brown. He is a hand-wringing lefty looking for clever wheezes to raise more tax in ways that people don’t immediately notice.

  • captainslugwash

    I predict the Budget will attempt to show the Left how caring the Tories are, and it will be funded by screwing over the working man.
    If Corp Tax comes down, I bet Divi tax will be going up.
    I would love to be wrong.

  • skynine

    We really need to look at tax credits, in particular in work tax credits that encourage people to work part time to preserve the benefits. 45% of women work part time and I would hazard a guess that tax credits are the main cause. This leads to low pay, low skill work in supermarkets and the retail sector including coffee shops. The government needs to get back to the employer paying people to do a job for economic reasons rather than to get onto the tax credit ladder. Like all government benefits it distorts the market and diverts government expenditure into non productive areas.
    The refrain that the government has cut expenditure is not true, it increases every year as more and more goes into welfare.

  • MrVeryAngry

    fat chance

  • MrSauce

    So, when wouldn’t we want a ‘budget for growth’?

  • Rob

    I note that the UK Government has just slapped on a 25% tax charge for anyone moving abroad and wishing to move out their private pension from the UK.

  • SonofBoudica

    The Remoaners will do their utmost to sabotage the Government’s negotiating position. They do not want a successful outcome; they want a failure. They want to be able to scream “Told you so!” from the rooftops.

  • EnglandLaments

    Thank goodness for Andrew Neil, the one media hack who scares the pants off the established politicians. He was spot on with Heidi Allen!

  • joshuafalken

    I had a very long, hard, studied and considered look at the hope, care and aspirations of all Europeans, before I voted to get the UK out of the toxic grasp of Brussels.

    The European Union and it’s charge of “ever closer union” has borrowed and spent its way to oblivion, whilst enslaving the working and middle classes in debt.

    The central control mantra of the unaccountable Brussels ruling elite, delivered through a mixture of socialism, globalism and corporatism is entirely responsible for the populist revolt by the millions of “Just About Managings” across Europe.

    We must remember the ultimate goal of socialists, globalists and corporatists is control, not prosperity. see—-not-prosperity.

    Social equality and economic growth always fail under central control and fighting against the Brussels doctrine on behalf of all Europeans is why I voted for Brexit.

    Britain has a long history of helping Europeans depose tyrants and Brussels is just the latest incarnation.

    Britain is the most racially advanced and accepting society on the planet. We welcome those in need and those that can help us with open arms and a smile; that will not change.

    We are also one of the most innovative, talented and open societies in the world, which why everyone wants to live here. However, we cannot fit everyone in, so we have to have clear, balanced and fair immigration policy which is where the arguments start between the monetarists and humanists will never be reconciled.

    I thought long and hard before coming to the conclusion that leaving the EU was in the best interest of all Europeans, as Brussels is toxic and cannot be reformed from within.

    Also, I find it insulting that people who voted Remain have insufficient faith in British ingenuity, compassion and skill to get a good deal for us and see the Europe that we love get a better deal from Brussels and the reform that European people deserve. and

    The politics of left verses right are dead because neither have delivered the promised economic growth and social mobility for anyone, but themselves. The populists are not selfish per-se, they just want to take back control of their own destiny that left/right politicians have freely given away and/or exploited for their own ends. In my constituency, the local residents group are taking over the councils as politicians ignore voters, so Westminster should beware of the well-organised, local resident independents at the next election. This is a peoples revolution which should be shouted from the rooftops, but liberals remained deafened by the socialist, globalist and corporatist “vested interests” that have spectacularly failed us and are obediently crying foul and fake.

    There will be an initial unpalatable inflationary cost to fighting globalism and rolling back central control that few appear to have factored in, but dismantling failed left/right vested interests should eventually free libertarian socially-conservative capitalism from the shackles of TBTF corporatism to feed economic growth and social mobility.

  • agdpa

    The EU usually makes the wrong decision – on immigration, on freedom of movement, on the euro, on the Ukraine, etc. etc. Little hope it will get Brexit right.

  • brownowl

    Eh? Reference please!

  • Neil2

    Sod caring. Screw the spongers and breeders. Kill HS2. Stop all “green” subsidies. Slash “foreign aid” and walk away from the EUSSR with immediate effect.

  • Rob
  • John C

    What a confused article. It conflates surveillance by the security services with poor defences against fraud.

  • John C

    Err, it’s the UK that’s leaving the EU, not vice versa.

  • John C

    Me, now. ‘Growth’ is a manic obsession.

  • La Face Nord

    Mr Redwood – are you aware of the Biased BBC website? It’s been exposing their agenda for a long time, but I imagine you’ve been well aware of the BBC’s agenda for quite some time…

  • Contact Rvtech

    The post is great

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