Who will vote for secondary moderns?

The elephant in the room of Theresa May’s plan to open more grammar schools is – secondary modern schools.

Selecting a minority of children at age 11 for grammar schools means an inferior kind of school for those who failed. This is what happened from 1945 to the 1970s across most of the country: around 20% passed the 11 plus exam and got a place in a grammar school, whilst the vast majority went to secondary moderns. This still happens in some parts of England, even though the secondary moderns in places like Kent are euphemistically labelled “comprehensive”.

Very few children from the poorest families get into grammar schools: around 1 in 20 from the poorest fifth of the population. 94% go to secondary moderns.

The Prime Minister isn’t even claiming that grammar schools will help the poorest fifth of children (roughly speaking, those on free school meals). More cautiously, her claim is that it will help the “JAMs” – the families that are  “just about managing”. How true is this?

The JAMs are the next-lowest fifth. In grammar school areas, 6 out of 7 children (87%) from JAMs families end up in secondary modern schools.

From the middle fifth, around 1 in 4 children enter grammar schools at age 11, while about 3 out of 4 (77%) go to secondary moderns.

Even the next-to-the-top fifth of families by income suffer a second-class education for 2 out of 3 (67%) of their children.

It is only the most affluent fifth whose children have an evens change of getting into grammar school. Even from these families, 48% will go on to secondary moderns unless they pay private school fees.

Does the average Daily Mail reader understand this yet? It’s time they did.

Is this what run-in-the-mill Conservatives voted for?

The Government could have a fight on their hands.

All the photos for this article were taken at secondary modern schools around the 1960s. The data comes from recent research by Simon Burgess, Claire Crawford and Lindsey Macmillan reported in a recent Reclaiming Schools blog post.  

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