The biggest political news story today is the government’s decision to allow the opening of a de facto new grammar school in Kent (it’s illegal to actually open a new grammar school, so technically it’s a second site for an existing grammar school in another town). Obviously it’s too early for there to be any polling in re-action to this, but it’s a long standing issue so there is plenty of past polling to look at.

On balance, the public tend to support the existence of current grammar schools – only around a quarter of people support the government ending selection in the remaining grammar schools and opening them to children of all abilities. In contrast, around 40% of people support allowing more selection by ability and the opening of new Grammar schools – the balance is made up of don’t knows and people who back what was the status quo of allowing the existing grammar schools to remain, but not allowing any new ones.

In May YouGov asked about the “loophole” that Nicky Morgan today approved – opening up an extension of an existing grammar school at a new campus in a different location. 51% of people approved of that idea, 18% disapproved, 30% didn’t know. So for what it’s worth, it appears to get the public’s thumbs up.

As an aside, whenever the issue of public attitudes towards grammar schools pops up on the agenda I see the same question. Polls that ask about grammar schools normally show the sort of results I’ve outlined above, and critics of grammar schools will normally counter with something along the lines of “Ah, but you only asked about grammar schools, if you’d asked do you want to bring back grammar schools for those who pass the test… and secondary moderns for those who don’t, then you would have got a different answer”.

That’s a reasonable point. So we tested it.

Back in February YouGov asked a question to two different samples. Half were asked if they’d like to bring back grammar schools across the whole of Great Britain – 53% said yes, 20% said no. The other half were asked if they’d like to bring back the system of an exam at 11, with 25% of children who passed going to grammar schools and the other 75% going to secondary moderns. Now 46% of people supported it, 34% of people were opposed.

People are, at first glance, pretty supportive of grammar schools. That support is undermined a little when people consider the other side of the coin – the majority of children who do not pass the exam – but grammar schools still have more supporters than detractors.


159 Responses to “What polls say about grammar schools”

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  1. Interesting but the second approach assumes a return to the old grammar school or secondary modern binary and there are other ways in which selective education could be structured that are less divisive. We won’t know what those might be unless this or a future government seeks to change the law.

  2. It should be remembered that “grammar or secondary modern” was not the choice envisaged by Butler’s 1944 Education Act. That proposed three different types of secondary school: grammar schools, secondary technical schools and secondary modern schools, though very few technical schools were provided. Under that Act ‘Comprehensive schools’ would combine all three types, but few appeared until much later.

  3. Totally illogical. We can have Grammar Schools where they exist, but not where they don’t.So much for localism!

    If people were allowed to start up ‘free’ selective schools, they’d be killed in the rush!

    Even were it only a minority who want Grammar Schools (which according to the article it isn’t). So present policies, espoused by both main parties are totally anti-democratic, and absurd anyway. Why can’t we have Grammar Schools in Surrey, by law, when next door in Kent there are over 30?

  4. Obviously those 46% of people have all got kids who’d be in the 25%! That’s logic, that is.

  5. A little? Support goes from +33 to +12, I would consider this to be clear difference.

  6. I’m actually surprised that support is so high…

  7. Tell me when you get bored, but I was a pretty bright kid. I got moved up a year when I was 8, and so I left to secondary school at the age of 10 (rather than 11).

    I went to a grammar school, and I feel that was the best system for me to enter. I just don’t think I’d have got the same opportunity to excel at a comprehensive.

    I can see on the flip side, that I may have ‘dragged up’ students at a comp, but surely it’s more likely I’d have been merely dragged down?

    (shrugs)

  8. Should we really be making such a fuss about what is basically a local government issue in a small corner of Kent?

    That said, how many people in Sevenoaks are looking forward to the exciting prospect of being able to send their offspring to a Secondary Modern?

  9. .P.S. The aspirational middle class of West Kent have long since moved from Sevenoaks to Tonbridge, which in addition to having a leading public school has grammar schools that regularly come near the top of the school league tables. Or they can go to Orpingtom where St. Olave’s scores even higher. Come to that, it doesn’t exactly take long to catch one of the frequent trains from Sevenoaks to Tonbridge and back

    Many people elsewhere in the country, and in large parts of Kent, would be green with envy at the amount Kent County Council spends on secondary education in this privileged part of their area.

    Perhaps I could also add that Kent has one of the largest proportions of children in the country who go to public schools, some of them not particularly good schools, that bail out children who have failed their 11+.

    [Snip]

  10. If you really want to live in Sevenoaks, they have a very good public school as well.

  11. Good Evening All; nice sunset earlier here by the sea.

    On the polling; I am not surprised, since most people were very proud of the grammar schools in their areas, especially ironically in Old Labour areas such as South Wales where large percentages of boys and girls attended Grammar Schools; Aberavon-Port Talbot had two grammar schools for example.

    Tragically, in my view, the Butler vision, influenced by the German model of the three types of secondary schools was not implemented.

    In a recent series Michael Portillo described the destruction of Grammar Schools as vandalism. Charles Moore’s brilliant biography of Mrs Thatcher shows how she regretted putting into practice the Circulars on abolishing grammar schools which Tony Crosland (public school boy-Westminster) enforced on LEA’s.

    However the 1966 GE campaign featured many middle class people indicating they favoured abolition of the eleven plus, since the rejections of their own children were painful.

    Jeremy Corbyn did very well despite or partly due to his Grammar school.

  12. Coming back to your Introduction, people don’t believe that they, or their children, will be the ones to fail. The average person is pretty dreadful at statistics anyway, and on top of that they don’t think that the outcome will be unfavourable for them, or their children, personally.

    What if you asked a sample of people with primary school aged children something on the lines of: –

    Suppose the Government had a selection test in your area. 25% of children would pass and go to a Grammar School. The other 75% would fail and go to a Secondary Modern. Do you think that your child would pass this exam and go to a Grammar School, or would your child fail and go tro a Secondary Modern school?”

    Do you really think that as few as 25% of their parents would say that their children would pass the test?

  13. Ahem – thanks to those that haven’t and have stuck to what public opinion is, but a gentle request that comments here don’t drift towards whether the existence of grammar schools is any good or not.

  14. Frederic, secondary moderns were the other option in the past but that doesn’t mean they have to be in the future. A 21st Century grammar school system could and no doubt would work very differently. That’s the problem with asking a polling question based on the past system. If a future government proposes resurrecting grammar schools, chances are that the set up will be rather different to the past system and until or unless we know what it would look like, this type of polling seems a bit redundant.

  15. I’m going to be controversial… :-)

    It doesn’t matter what type of school it is, comprehensive, grammar, public school.

    Success or failure depends entirely on the parents, In passing on clever genes in the first place. And then teaching their children several successful behaviours – diligence, deferred gratification and so on.

    I know someone whose school didn’t offer Pure and Applied Maths as separate A levels because there wasn’t the demand for it in the school (he was the only one who wanted to sit them). But he needed them to get into his chosen degree course. So he asked the school if they would enter him for the exams anyway and he would do the learning himself. And he did – just followed all the instructions in the textbooks and did past papers and got A’s in both. He was bright, he had parents who has instilled the right behaviours in him and was able to then use both to teach himself.

    Conversely you have Prince Harry. Best education money can buy, but ended up with only an A level in Art. And his former art teacher at Eton alleged that she had written the text to go with his artwork and the head of dept had done the artwork. And we have to believe her unless Eton is in the habit of employing teachers who make things up, No amount of expensive education could overcome Harry’s genetic inheritance.

    Ah, say the naysayers, Harry has done well in life so the schooling worked. Yes he has done well. But it has nothing whatsoever to do with the school or anything he learnt there. It’s to do with members of the establishment bending rules for him (eg relaxing the entrance requirements for Sandhurst). In other words, things outside of school.

    In a purely meritocratic world, genetics are destiny. If you want your child to do well the first thing you should do is not marry an idiot!

    And if we want to improve the performance of the population as a whole we need to find a way to allow working class women to meet and marry successful men. At the moment they are confined in the ghettos known as council estates. No woman wants to get together with a loser who will abandon her – but those women have limited choice, so they usually fool themselves that they can reform the bloke etc etc. And then end up single mothers and worse the man’s useless genes get passed on to another generation. If we broke up the ghettos and scattered people about, the chances of these women ending up with someone more stable and successful would increase.

    I’m aware I’m upsetting both the right (free schools and grammar schools are the answer!) and the left (everyone is born equal!). But there you go. :-)

  16. Apologies Anthony.

  17. I hesitate to follow Candy’s post…

    However, as something of an aside, I went to a grammar school, which became part of the comprehensive system 40 years ago.

    I bumped into my old science teacher the other day, and I asked him why our old school still easily outperformed the other schools in the area, despite having no obvious advantages over the rest in terms of funding, locality, pupil ability on entry, etc.

    He immediately answered that the school retained a culture of ambition and achievement from its grammar school past, that still persisted forty years on.

    I mention this not as am advocate of the grammar school system, but I thought it an interesting comment on how individual schools acquire a certain style and reputation, and how resilient that can be.

  18. @Candy
    “And if we want to improve the performance of the population as a whole we need to find a way to allow working class women to meet and marry successful men. At the moment they are confined in the ghettos known as council estates. No woman wants to get together with a loser who will abandon her – but those women have limited choice, so they usually fool themselves that they can reform the bloke etc etc. And then end up single mothers and worse the man’s useless genes get passed on to another generation. If we broke up the ghettos and scattered people about, the chances of these women ending up with someone more stable and successful would increase.”

    Apologies to Anthony, but I have to respond, even if its off-topic. What an appalling view of the ‘working class’. Not all of them live on council estates, and most that do are very respectable and intelligent people. Also, you appear to think that working class women are victims of their environment and all working class men are useless losers. I often agree with your posts, but this must be the most bigoted post I’ve ever read on here. If it was tongue in cheek I apologise.

  19. Candy: I think that is right, but grammar schools obviate the need for socially wasteful spending on private schools or houses in good catchment areas so that people can segregate by ability and outlook. The main reason they do this is to avoid social conflict rather than to improvement their attainment.

    From a PR point of view, though, this is useless talk. The public are not willing to accept that evolutionary processes apply to humans and that will take a generation after the disappearance of Christianity to really change.

    (On the subject of the royals, I suspect one reason they are now being sent off to university is to help them find above average IQ spouses. Corruptly getting this generation into a 120 IQ dating pool means that at the next generation corruption hopefully won’t be necessary. This is a huge improvement over inbreeding with a handful of other sword aristocrat families, who like Harry have leadership skills and courage but not a lot of brains.)

  20. Mico
    By all accounts Harry is not the result of inbreeding. I agree he’s not too bright though.

  21. Anthony

    Did I miss a link to the tables in those February questions on grammar schools?

    Without commenting on whether allocating children to separate secondary schools is a good or bad thing, comments on the incompetence of pollsters would seem to be within the rules?

    Asking “Would you support or oppose re-introducing [1] grammar schools [2] across the whole of Great Britain[3]?’” is fatuous.

    Asking Would you support or oppose re-introducing the selective education system across the whole of Great Britain [3], where children take an exam at 11 [4], with the top quarter [5] of children going to grammar schools [2] and the other three-quarters [5] going to secondary modern schools [6]?”, however, shows a worrying level of ignorance and/or incompetence.

    Confusing the issue of whether there is any demand in Scotland for streaming in comprehensive schools – or even the recreation of academic only institutions in the cities, is not helped by such appallingly phrased questions.

    I wouldn’t expect most in Scotland to know the details of the corrections I have noted below. Clearly, YG had little expectation that many in England would understand their former system either – hence the explanatory notes (which are quite wrong for Scotland).

    I’m sure that the grammar school story was “the biggest political news story today” in Kent

    [1] You can’t “re-introduce” to Scotland, a system that was never introduced in the first place
    [2] “Grammar” schools were not a category of school in Scotland. Those which maintained that name from the original burgh schools were small in number. Other selective schools might be called “Senior High”, “Senior Secondary” or Academies.
    [3] Since responsibility for education lies with three different national governments in GB, a sensible pollster would have asked differently worded questions in the 3 nations, or restricted the question to England.
    [4] The Scottish Control Exam (or Quallie) was normally sat at age 12 – since pupils in Scotland & N Ireland spend 7 years in Primary education, as opposed to the English model.
    [5] Under the “Quallie” system in Scotland, 30% were selected for an academic education. Whether that was in a separate school establishment, or in different streams in a school for all, varied across the country.
    [6] Scotland had no “secondary modern” schools. The term here was “Junior Secondary”.

  22. Does anyone know what would happen if the latest Yougov Scottish poll happened to be reflected in the results next May and we ended up with 25 Tory MSPs and 25 SLAB MSPs? How do they decide who is the official opposition etc. at Holyrood, if indeed there is formally such a thing?

  23. @PeteB

    I apologise – I should have said “underclass” rather than “working class”. My point stands though. I think their chances are diminished by being penned in the estates.

    As for Harry – he’s definitely the result of inbreeding. Here’s the lineage:

    King George I & Sophia Dorothea of Celle: 1st cousins
    King George II & Caroline of Ansbach: 3rd cousin 1 generation removed
    King George III & Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz: 3rd cousins
    King George IV & Caroline of Brunswick: 1st cousins
    King William IV & Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen: 3rd cousins 1 generation removed
    Queen Victoria & Albert, Prince Consort: 1st cousin
    King Edward VII & Alexandra of Denmark: 3rd cousins
    King George V & Mary of Teck: 2nd cousin 1 generation removed
    King George VI & Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon 13th cousins
    Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
    – 2nd cousin 1 generation removed via King Christian IX of Denmark,
    – also 3rd cousins via Queen Victoria & Prince Albert

    Every time they marry close the line worsens – for example Edward VII was dimmer than Victoria and George VI was vastly dimmer than George V. And if you repeatedly marry cousins the genes get so concentrated you may as well be marrying siblings.

    Elizabeth benefited from her parents not really being related much – 13th cousins is on par with the connections between ordinary Brits. But she then threw a damper by marrying her second cousin. Little George is the first one in a long time with sound genes coming from his mother :-)

    And no amount of education can solve their problem – it can only be solved through successive geneations marrying non-related successful people. But that applies to people at the bottom of society as well.

  24. On the Grammar school polling. Many people are in favour of Grammar schools because they [think] that they gave an equal opportunity to everyone to better themselves and stand a good chance of getting to university even in the 1960s and earlier. Secondary Modern schools (or Scottish equivalent with a different name, for OldNat’s purposes) were not just a dumping ground. Quite a few from there went to university as well.

  25. Candy
    OK, some of what you said applies to the underclass, but I’m still uncomfortable with the idea that all women in that group are victims and all men are useless layabouts.

    On royal lineage, I don’t think Diana was all that closely related to Charles, so Wills should be ok. My comment about Harry was to do with his rumoured male parent, and was meant as a bit of a joke.

  26. NedLudd

    I would say that comparing the social effects of grammar schools today with that in their heyday is misleading. This is because in the days when every town had a grammar school (or equivalent, for Jocks), most parents aspired to get their children into one. Now that they are thin on the ground, wealthier parents have an advantage in gaining access (e.g. by moving house to a more expensive area).

  27. Bill Patrick

    There is no such thing as an “Official Opposition” at Holyrood. “Unlike the Westminster arrangement where there is an ‘Official Opposition’ to the government of the day, there is no such thing as an ‘official’ opposition to the Scottish Government. Instead, all parties that are not in government are merely ‘opposition parties'”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_Cabinet_(Scottish_Parliament)

    (Of course, Wiki could be wrong. :-) )

  28. @PeteB

    Harry is definitely Charles’ son – he’s beginning to look more and more like him since he’s turned 30.

    And Charles was related to Diana – both descended from Sir William Gascoigne, they were 7th cousins, so not as closely related as previous royal marriages but still more related than normal.

    Not sure why people want to gloss over this – “dating pools” have an influence on how bright the offspring are, and this is an issue at the top of society as much as the bottom. It’s never going to be solved by people pretending otherwise.

  29. How exciting.

    ChrisLane1945 is correct on the influence of the dual education system, which was rejected as the expenses of it were much better spent in tax cuts (a proper dual education system would double the primary and secondary education cost). If there was a dual education system, there wouldn’t be a discussion about grammar schools.

    Now, on this only Britain’s (E&W) future depends, however, I’m looking forward to the next political poll, because I’m getting convinced that the tax credit cuts would be the poll tax for the Conservatives.

  30. The YG Full Scottish Poll also has a set of questions as to whether respondents “Trust [Party X] to tell the truth” and whether [Party X] “gives the impression of being sleazy and disreputable”.

    Unsurprisingly, those intending to vote other than for [Party X] think it can’t be trusted to tell the truth and that it seems sleazy and disreputable, while their preferred party is wholly trustworthy, and has pristine repute..

    While some may change their vote because of media reports about [Party X] , my suspicion is that such folk are few in number. Most people, probably, respond in partisan fashion.

  31. Laszlo

    “I’m looking forward to the next political poll, because I’m getting convinced that the tax credit cuts would be the poll tax for the Conservatives.”

    I wouldn’t be so sure!

    Today’s YG Scottish poll asked whether they would support/oppose tax rises/cuts if they were intended to improve/cut public services/benefits/tax credits.

    While such responses should always be taken with a pinch of salt, when it comes to taxes, the results were still interesting.

    Raising taxes to improve public services was approved by 52% to 37%, while raising them to improve benefits/tax credits was opposed by 57% to 30%.

  32. @ OldNat

    Yes, it’s true.

    I’m thinking of the people who are actually affected first (a sizeable VI) and secondly if they make an attempt (or Watson MP would do it on behalf of them – would be a smart move) to create a social movement (I clearly remember a chat with some of the anti poll tax people in Glasgow in 1991 about the creation of the organisation once the movement was recognised).

  33. Laszlo

    My memories of the poll tax was that the massive support for the anti-poll tax movement in Scotland achieved precisely zero movement by the UK Government.

    However, when there was rioting and mayhem in London ……..

  34. @ OldNat

    I think you are wrong. There was a hell of a lot of consultation between the Scottish and English anti poll tax movement.

    Also, anecdote (!) in Glasgow in the house where I stayed in 1991, I was given very clear instructions by the host what should I do if the bailiff and what if the police came as he had to go to London and I (with my two friends) stayed in the house. The battle on TS was only a surface of it. Court cases in Liverpool went on until at least 1994.

  35. Laszlo

    I didn’t say there was no consultation with other parts of GB when the poll tax was finally introduced outwith Scotland.

    I made the point that the year long Scottish campaign, while being politically energising, made not a whit of difference to the ending of the poll tax.

    Of course, the Trafalgar Square riot was only part of the campaign – and a pretty daft part too (Tommy Sheridan was outspoken in condemning it), and the core reason for dumping the tax was its political unpopularity in England.

    However, as on so many occasions, the UK Government managed to create the impression that it was subject to changing its mind, in response to violent action in London.

    The consequence of that is the continuation of the political role of the 18th century “London mob” into the 21st century.

  36. @Candy

    “I’m aware I’m upsetting both the right (free schools and grammar schools are the answer!) and the left (everyone is born equal!).”

    And anyone with a half-decent knowledge of biology…

  37. Ned Ludd

    Thanks for the link. It’s interesting to compare different political systems.

    My comment related to the YG Scottish poll. It may be that “Middle England” behaves differently – though Alec would probably rouse himself to challenge such an assumption. :-)

  38. @ AU

    Very good :)

    What was it George Bernard Shaw said… “But Madam, what if the child takes my looks and your brains?” He didn’t have a half decent understanding of biology either.

  39. Oldnat,

    Thanks.

  40. AU/SYZYGY

    But Candy didn’t attribute all of an individual’s intelligence to inherited influences.

    The full quote reads :-

    “Success or failure depends entirely on the parents, In passing on clever genes in the first place. And then teaching their children several successful behaviours – diligence, deferred gratification and so on.”

    And even a brief google of academic study reveals this analysis-both heritable & cultural influences are at work-is correct . What is unknown in Western Society particularly,is what the relative proportions are.

    The classic conundrum being expressed thus :- ” “intelligent people tend to have more books in their homes and therefore their children tend to read more, which leads them, at least some evidence suggests, to be more intelligent,” “So the question is: Are they intelligent because their parents are intelligent and they have passed those genes on, or are they smarter because their parents are providing more environmental input?”

    It is as wrong to say that all intellectual capacity is culturally acquired , as to say that it is all heritable.

    http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/40459/title/inherited-intelligence/

  41. There is no way that a poll on extending or reviving grammar schools could by unbiased by the fact in popular awareness of their iconic status in British 20th Century history of educational development and the experience of many of the achievement of social mobility by themselves or their parents through grammar school education. Comprehensives, the obvious alternative, many lacking sixth forms and so not in themselves offering a direct route to university, have not had the same place in public experience or affection, or, in the same way, provided a basis of prestige to rival the public school system.

  42. Doesn’t really matter what the schools are called as long as they teach what is useful to the country. One thing I agree with Corbyn is that if schools take taxpayers money they are answerable to the taxpayer. Free schools should be free from taxpayers having to pay for them. if UEA wants to teach Chinese English instead of English people engineering tha’s fine but English taxpayers should not have to pay for it at all.

  43. “Now, on this only Britain’s (E&W) future depends, however, I’m looking forward to the next political poll, because I’m getting convinced that the tax credit cuts would be the poll tax for the Conservatives.”

    Yes, and look at the damage that did in the ’92 general election.

  44. Bernard & Lazslo – ““Now, on this only Britain’s (E&W) future depends, however, I’m looking forward to the next political poll, because I’m getting convinced that the tax credit cuts would be the poll tax for the Conservatives.”

    You’ll need to wait longer than that. Until people start getting letters saying how their own tax credits will change I expect many will be unaware or won’t know how it will affect them in particular. The announcement at the budget made no difference, doubt the legislation will or debates in the bubble.

    For the impact, wait till letters start to hit doormats (which I think I read was later in the year, though I could easily have imagined that)

  45. @Colin

    “It is as wrong to say that all intellectual capacity is culturally acquired, as to say that it is all heritable.”

    Of course it is – but I didn’t say that. (Nor was Candy making a qualified argument about the necessity of both factors, but I’ll set that aside…)

    I was making a snarky response to such corkers as 1) “It doesn’t matter what type of school it is, comprehensive, grammar, public school” well it does, because that might be the environment that teaches them the ‘right’ skills; parents are not the only people who can pass on skills, techniques and habits of mind (and more else besides, there’s much more to it than just this) to their children – that being the case education and type of school then becomes very important

    and 2) “genetics are destiny”; well they’re not, because it’s a constant interaction with other factors – such as environment – as well as the fact that the brain continues to grow and develop until a person’s 20s. And that’s before I get started on epigenetics and what that might imply as well as how we define intelligence.

    I had intended to point out that basic logical contradiction in her post but, given past experience of writing long posts in response, I determined it wasn’t worth the effort.

    In any case ‘inherited characteristics’, as you put it, would already imply that it’s not all genetic – and in biological circles heritable doesn’t necessarily mean genetic either; it just means the chances that the child will acquire a characteristic from their parents withing a given environment (the crucial bit that’s often left out). You can do some kind of separation work to see how much is due to genetic factors and how much is due to environmental factors, but it’s very difficult to gauge, particularly so with intelligence (which normally rely on twin studies, which are notoriously unreliable).

    Accents, after all, are highly heritable (and also correlated with such things as success in life, high earning, intelligence, class status) but nobody would be brain-dead enough to suggest that accents are genetically inscribed.

    Faced with the fact that this is all up in the air, and nobody really knows how much of a factor one thing or the other plays, the only thing people can do is focus on the element we can control – which are the environmental factors. Hence why re-distributive policies at some level to ensure that everyone gets a good start in life, coupled with good general schooling available to everyone are, and will continue to be, important.

  46. Last point before I shut up about this;

    The only one factor that, after centuries of testing, is shown to absolutely correlate well with educational success and knowledge is that the person show interest in the subject; Candy’s example of the person teaching himself the necessary math to pass the subject demonstrates that clearly.

    How exactly you get people to be interested in something enough to want to pursue it is the million-pound question that nobody has yet found an answer to (not least because what people are interested in will vary, for a whole variety of reasons, but peering into mire of genetics and ‘correct’ parenting will not provide a whole lot of help).

  47. @ Colin

    Which definition of intellectual capacity/intelligence are you and/or Candy using? The capacity of an 10/11y old to pass the eleven plus?

    AW doesn’t want a discussion about the rights and wrongs of selective education so [I’ll respect that…]

  48. If you look at the tables for the split sample in February that Anthony mentions:

    https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/welqki11ti/ProspectResults_150213_grammar_schools.pdf

    it’s notable that the biggest supporters of grammar schools are those over 60[1]. They are both the group most likely to have been schooled under the old system and so be sentimental about it[2] and least likely to have to put any offspring though the system now or in the future. The group most likely to have to do/be doing that (25-39) are the only age group opposed (41% to 35%), at least in the second ‘explained’ group.

    Politics clearly has a lot to do with people’s opinions on this one – UKIP voters are even more pro-Grammar than Conservatives, no doubt in line with their general ‘Back to the Imaginary 50s’ viewpoint. But there is surprisingly little difference on either gender or class. Both women and C2DEs are slightly less likely to be pro-Grammar, but it’s not a big gap. Apart from Scotland, support is fairly even evenly spread across the country, modified by politics, except for London where support is higher than you might expect. This may be down to a ‘choice mentality’ – London voters having the expectation that they will have more options and so less worried that they will be left with a bad one[3].

    Quite a lot of difference between the two samples is genuine ignorance. Generally the DK’s are 27% for the ‘plain’ but only 20% for the ‘explained’ question. However in Scotland, where knowledge and experience of the grammar system would be less, the figures are 45% and 17%[4].

    Though it’s worth saying that when it was explained very few went for grammars who might have been DKs and some who would have chosen grammars on the ‘plain’ question went against on greater information (or said DK). Even at 20% when ‘explained’ DK is high (and highest among those most likely to be affected), so it’s probable that further movement would be seen if the issue got more consideration and a look at these figures suggests it could well be away from grammars to the current status quo.

    Like a lot of recent government policies, a revival of grammar schools is the sort of thing that may look attractive as a headline to a lot of people and even score well in opinion polls. However greater scrutiny and awareness of the consequences may mean minds are altered and what looks like a vote-winner can become a liability. We’ve seen this with policies such as the bedroom tax and are already seeing it with tax credits (look at the drop in those who see the Conservatives as being close to those with families).

    [1] By 67% to 17% in the ‘plain’ sample asked Would you support or oppose re-introducing grammar schools across the whole of Great Britain? by 56% to 39% in the ‘explained’ version with the added words where children take an exam at 11, with the top quarter of children going to grammar schools and the other three-quarters going to secondary modern schools?. I was actually surprised at the difference between the two samples for this group – presumably some had forgotten the full horrors of their education.

    [2] Obviously as members of the Spoilt Brat Generation, they also believe that they are the pinnacle of human evolution and therefore anything that produced them must be perfection.

    [3] To some extent this may be justified. It’s comparatively easy quick and cheap to send a child ten miles across London to attend a desired or prestigious school (as several New Labour Cabinet Ministers demonstrated). And there’s a lot of choice available for those it is available to. Outside London options are often few and less easily attainable.

    [4] While there’s technically nothing wrong with the ‘whole of Great Britain’ wording (a hypothetical can suggest anything after all) I did wonder whether Anthony was trying to wind up OldNat at the time and has now chickened out by not linking the tables.

  49. AU

    I think I will leave the science of nature v nurture as it relates to intelligence, to the appropriate scientists. There is plenty of it online.

    re @”Faced with the fact that this is all up in the air, and nobody really knows how much of a factor one thing or the other plays, the only thing people can do is focus on the element we can control – which are the environmental factors. Hence why re-distributive policies at some level to ensure that everyone gets a good start in life, coupled with good general schooling available to everyone are, and will continue to be, important.”

    Yes-I agree that “environmental” factors should be the focus ( absent a program of GM for humans) . But of course the dilemma about the relative weights for heritable & environmental influence means that you cannot tell whether a “good” environment derives from Government policy-or from Parental Genes. Conversely , how does one know that Government Policy can compensate for lack of heritable influence.?

    Anecdotally, my grandaughter ( doing a PGCE course) persuaded me to watch Educating Cardiff on tv-my overiding reaction was the staggering amount of devotion & time expended by both teaching & ancilliary staff in desperately trying to compensate for adverse parental environments -in order to even begin to teach those particular children.

    So I am nowhere near convinced of your belief in “redistributive policies” as a panacea to provide level playing fields. ( That is not to say that some “redistribution” of economic wealth is not justified for other reasons)

    It seems to me that paucity of parental ambition , or interest in learning-inevitably transmitted to the child, can become the “culture” of that family & its associates. Just throwing money at it isn’t going to fix it.

  50. I have a reply to AU in moderation.

    I wasn’t thinking about 11 plus -or grammar schools at all in my comments.

    Just about the hugely interesting science of nature v nurture influences on intellectual capacity.

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