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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Grammar schools 'performing badly'
The selective system of secondary education in the Kent and Medway education authorities is failing pupils, academic analysis suggests.

Research suggests the grammar schools do very poorly when compared with similar schools elsewhere in England.

The secondary moderns also fare badly - although the gap is not so pronounced.

The study was commissioned by a Labour MP.

Some excellence

Stephen Ladyman, the MP for South Thanet, had hoped the government or Kent County Council would hold an independent inquiry into the performance of the selective systems in Kent and Medway.

When neither did, he commissioned a study himself.

It was done by David Jesson of the University of York's centre for performance evaluation and resource management.

The two authorities have 39 grammars - almost a quarter of all the remaining 164 grammar schools in England and the biggest concentration of them.

Professor Jesson says: "The major finding of this report is that the schools in Kent and Medway do not offer better performance to all of their communities.

"There are some schools providing 'excellent' outcomes to their pupils in these two LEAs, but it appears that the 'excellence' of some is gained at the expense of others, and particularly of those in less advantaged circumstances."


Using national data supplied by the Department for Education, he shows that Kent and Medway have an above average proportion of schools producing "high" standards at GCSE level - 37% against 28%.

But the other side of the coin is that they have far more low-performing schools: 32%, against 20% nationally.

He says that - contrary to what people might think - this is not typical of selective systems.

When Kent and Medway are compared with nine other areas where there is selection, they still have the largest proportion of "low" GCSE results: 32% against 22%.

Prof Jesson also looked at how well the Kent and Medway grammars do compared with those elsewhere.

Cause for concern

He used the so-called "autumn package" of benchmarking data of the sort Ofsted inspectors use when assessing schools.

This gives schools a rating from A* down to E*.

He found that there were only four schools in the highest category - when 10 might be expected - but there were 17 in the lowest categories, normally the realm of "schools whose performance is causing concern".

"This evaluation of grammar school performance provides clear evidence that a high proportion of them are not performing well," he reports.

'Very poor'

Stephen Ladyman said: "Parents don't notice this because grammar schools only teach the brightest students and so their GCSE results always look good compared with local secondary moderns.

"In fact, the standard of grammar schools in Kent and Medway is very poor and pupils at these schools could be doing even better."

Prof Jesson had been able to provide national pupil attainment figures but Kent had refused to release their data so local figures had not been available to him.

"Parents are entitled to know," Dr Ladyman said.

'Food for thought'

"Kent has censored these figures because they would damn the performance of selective education in Kent and parents would demand reform.

"Kent should release the figures now, or the government should force them to do so."

Kent said it was working on a response.

The Department for Education opposes further selection but leaves it to ballots of parents to decide the future of existing selective schools.

11+ abolition

In the only ballot there has been - over one grammar school in Ripon - parents opted for the status quo.

The department said the analysis provided "food for thought for Kent parents".

The chair of the Stop the Eleven Plus campaign in Kent, Rebecca Matthews, said it was clear that selecting on the basis of the 11+ test simply did not work.

"Children in Kent and Medway are getting poorer results than they would if the 11+ was abolished and schools were not allowed to select their intake," she said.

"Add to this study the latest report from the Learning and Skills Council showing that Kent has 25% fewer people graduating than other parts of the South East and I am amazed that politicians continue to stick their head in the sand and pretend that everything is wonderful."

See also:

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