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.