Trafford, its Grammar Schools, what Graham Brady didn’t say and the Today programme didn’t askPosted: December 5, 2014
On “Today” this morning, there was an item about a Tory pressure group that wants their next manifesto to promise more grammar schools. After a brief but very clear rebuttal by Chris Husbands, there followed an interview at some length with Graham Brady, MP for one of the Trafford constituencies and long-time grammar school advocate.
His premise was that Trafford has a wonderful, high achieving system, grammar schools are a route to social mobility taking all kinds of kids and the secondary moderns too are all great schools. Predictably, Today had done no research so was in no position to challenge his bland and deeply misleading generalisations.
First of all, some basic data about Trafford secondary schools. In 2013, just 9% of pupils were classified as having low key stage 2 scores, 45% were mid-range and 46% had high scores. This is one of the highest scoring intakes in the country. So not surprisingly, GCSE results are very good. It would be remarkable and shocking if they weren’t.
But the key question is, who is benefiting from the Trafford system? Across all the Trafford schools, 21.3% of pupils are considered to be disadvantaged. 9.4% have English as an additional language. There are 7 grammar schools. Their 2013 GCSE cohorts looked like this:
Altrincham Boys 3% disadvantaged 4% EAL
Altrincham Girls 4% disadvantaged 7% EAL
Loreto 7% disadvantaged 0% EAL
Sale Grammar 5% disadvantaged 4% EAL
St Ambrose 7% disadvantaged 2% EAL
Stretford 26% disadvantaged 49% EAL
Urmston 3% disadvantaged 6% EAL
This means that even including the remarkable figures from Stretford, just 8% of grammar school pupils were classified as disadvantaged. For the six schools, the picture is even worse. So Trafford is no exception to the national pattern that grammar schools are populated by the economically and socially advantaged and poor kids generally don’t get in.
When it comes to results for different kinds if pupils, this is the pattern:
% gaining 5+ A* to C grades at GCSE
Low attainers at KS2 Trafford 4.4% England 6.9%
Mid attainers at KS2 Trafford 57.4% England 57.4%
High attainers at KS2 Trafford 96.1% England 94.7%
Or compare this with Hackney where 55% of pupils are recorded as disadvantaged. Here, in a fully comprehensive system the outcomes were:
% gaining 5+ A* to C grades at GCSE
Low attainers at KS2 Hackney 17.5%
Mid attainers at KS2 Hackney 70.3%
High attainers at KS2 Hackney 96.7%.
Those, like Graham Brady, who choose to claim that there is something special about areas with grammar schools need to reflect on these results. Trafford can claim a slightly better result for its ablest pupils than in the country as a whole. But it’s worse than Hackney and a good many much less favoured comprehensive authorities.
And for those who did less well age 11, the opportunities for catch up are clearly less. Four times as many pupils with a poor result at 11 got good GCSE’s in Hackney than in the secondary moderns of Trafford. In the country as a whole half as many again did so.
Finally it’s worth a look at the process. There is no borough wide 11+ exam in Trafford. Every school sets its own tests, for the most part on different days. So a child that wants to be considered for more than one grammar school has to sit perhaps a whole series of tests, often on Saturdays. Each school has its own over-subscription criteria with a mixture of catchment, test scores, Catholicism and distance from the school. There is no attempt to present an overall summary of the criteria or to ensure that there is equal access to grammar schools in all parts of the borough. If you intended to keep out children whose parents find this kind of thing hard to manage, this is exactly what you’d do …. complex and confusing systems, no co-ordination between schools and a whole string of forms to fill in and tests to sit at different and unpredictable times.
It remains deeply depressing that a local MP can be so ignorant of the realities of the school system in his constituency. It’s also sad that interviewers can’t get themselves briefed properly – this is all easily available data.