Can grammar schools really sprinkle fairy dust on struggling secondaries?

Dec 6, 2016 by

Theresa May expects selective schools to take over their neighbours and magically improve them. But the data tells a cautionary tale

“Further turmoil at troubled academy chain as Cedar Mount’s GCSE results plummet,” reported the Manchester Evening News in September. Under the headline was a striking story with a message for ministers as they seek, controversially, to encourage grammar schools to get involved in running non-selective institutions as part of Theresa May’s plan to expand selection.

The article was about an academy chain set up by the highly successful Altrincham grammar school for girls, which has faced a challenge in trying to turn around a comprehensive in a much tougher part of Manchester.

Cedar Mount academy has been in special measures for 18 months, despite being in the Bright Futures chain – praised as transformational five years ago by then education secretary Michael Gove. The school has seen the proportion of pupils passing English and maths GCSEs drop for four years in a row.

Does this carry ominous messages for England’s education system as a whole? Ministers, in moving to allow more selection, seek to mollify critics by suggesting an upside: that grammar schools will be forced to work with non-selectives to improve them. But the Cedar Mount experience offers a cautionary tale.

Meanwhile, Education Guardian can reveal, an analysis of official data on the Ofsted results of schools already in academy trusts – including a selective school – suggests grammars have yet to pass on their impressive record of inspection success to other institutions.

The government’s green paper (pdf), which proposes lifting the 1998 ban on the establishment of new grammars, and whose consultation (pdf) ends next Monday, seems to concede that grammar schools may create a problem for non-selective schools nearby.

Source: Can grammar schools really sprinkle fairy dust on struggling secondaries? | Education | The Guardian

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