#GE2017 election manifestos – Prof Alice Sullivan & grammar schools

Senior academics and leading experts in their field gave their perspectives on the main education issues in the General Election campaign and challenges for the next Government.

Comment from Professor Alice Sullivan, Professor of Sociology, UCL Institute of Education:

“The Conservative manifesto … says that reintroducing grammar schools is part of a drive to turn Britain into what they call ‘The worlds great meritocracy.’ That’s quite surprising because the essential reason that grammar schools are such an unlikely tool for promoting social mobility is that working class kids just tend not to get into grammar schools. So I was amazed actually to read in the Conservative manifesto that: “Contrary to what some people allege, official research shows that slightly more children from ordinary working class families attend selective schools as a percentage of school intake as compared to non-selective schools.” That just seems staggering and clearly false, so we asked what the source of that claim was. And we were told that it’s a DfE document. Well how does it achieve this amazing claim? It actually redefines ‘ordinary working families,’ so it’s a piece of doublethink that excludes families who are in receipt of pupil premium from being ordinary working families. And then the manifesto compounds this bizarre sleight of hand by extending the definition from ‘ordinary working families’ to ‘ordinary working class families,’ so Hey Presto, the bottom third of families no longer count as ordinary or as working class. And so those families and their children can be ignored and it doesn’t matter if they don’t get into grammar schools. Actually the DfE figures show very clearly that families on below median incomes, who might think they are quite ordinary and quite working class, are much less likely to get grammar places. So we know that there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that grammar schools promote social mobility and actually lots of evidence to suggest that they don’t. Clearly Theresa May and the Conservative Party and Justine Greening know that too, because an actual research summary from the Parliamentary Office of Research and Technology states it very clearly, so very far from producing evidence-based policy, they’re flying in the face of all the evidence that we have. But actually I think even more shockingly than that, using quite clear sleight of hand to misrepresent the evidence and claim that grammar schools are taking their share of ordinary working class kids.”

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