A new collection of essays published by the Higher Education Policy Institute entitled Social Mobility and Higher Education: Are grammar schools the answer? (HEPI Occasional Paper 22) looks at the latest evidence on academic selection.

The eight authors are leading figures in the study of education and social mobility including Dr Matt Dickson from the University's Institute for Policy Research. The chapters include:

  • challenge earlier work suggesting grammar schools help the chances of disadvantaged people reaching higher-tariff universities;
  • present evidence from longitudinal studies showing selection depresses overall educational achievement within an area and also hits the poorest children most; and
  • argue that the way to increase equality in higher education is not to make secondary schools more selective but to make universities more comprehensive.

The collection of essays is partly a response to The Impact of Selective Secondary Education on Progression to Higher Education which suggested grammar schools perform well in securing places for children from less wealthy homes at higher-tariff universities.

Professor John Furlong and Professor Ingrid Lunt, the co-editors of the new collection, said: "The debate about grammar schools and their impact on social mobility is one of the most long lasting in the field of education. The chances are that, with a new Conservative Government in power, the issue of whether or not to expand their number will be back on the table.

"The question about the impact of grammar schools on social mobility should be an empirical one. Do grammar schools increase social mobility or make matters worse?

"The evidence from high-quality studies undertaken over many years shows that, although grammar schools may work for the few, overall they have a negative impact on social mobility – particularly on the most disadvantaged people in our society."

Dr Matt Dickson, who contributed the first chapter to the new collection with Professor Lindsey Macmillan, said: "Our analysis shows neither the methods nor the data used by Iain Mansfield are up to the task. When sounder methods and data are used, the most reliable conclusion that can be drawn is that social mobility – as measured by progression to elite higher education – is unequivocally damaged by the selective schooling system."

To access the full media release from HEPI see https://www.hepi.ac.uk/2020/01/23/social-mobility-and-higher-education-new-report-shows-grammar-schools-are-not-the-answer/.