"The row over academic selection was reignited last night after a study concluded that more grammar schools would boost the results of working class pupils and raise education standards nationwide. Researchers said that expanding the number of selective places was just as likely to benefit children from poor homes."
However, the report is entirely about how it may be better for poor children to do more core academic subjects instead of vocational skills within schools – and nothing to do with school selection. The authors were even savvy enough to leave a clear disclaimer on this:
"Clearly this research cannot be
interpreted as evaluating the overall effects of a comprehensive or
selective (‘tracked’) system of education"
The report, published in the journal of the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance could have just as easily been interpreted as supportive of the comprehensive system. It effectively criticises academic selection (tracking) at one point when it says:
"we show that the net effect of the de-tracking reform was to increase [improve] examination results at the end of compulsory schooling"
And on page 26, in one of the few mentions of selection, it supports the Willetts view of social selection:
"Part of the large differential in educational outcomes between these socio-economic groups is directly attributed to the lower probability of children from poor family backgrounds entering into grammar schools."
Moving Simon Heffer away from the comment pages doesn’t appear to have lessened the hostility to Cameron’s Conservatives on the part of the Telegraph’s editorial team, they clearly leant on Education Correspondent Graeme Paton to spin this report so misleadingly.
11am update: Left-wing co-author Sandra McNally has come to the rescue of David Willetts by clarifying that the report was indeed not relevant to the grammars debate:
"This paper is only directed at one narrow question about Northern Irish education. The paper does not address or provide evidence on whether selective or comprehensive education systems do better and provides no support for reintroducing grammar schools across the UK. The paper does, however, provide evidence that the grammar school system entrenches social disadvantage."
Educational economist Gervas Huxley has gone through the report and found this to be true:
"The fundamental message of this research is that less able children benefit from an academic as opposed to a vocational education system. It says almost nothing about streaming, setting, selection, grammar schools, the 11+ or anything else."
Pressed for a quote last night Graham Brady said that "the figures
speak for themselves", unfortunately for him they don’t say what he was
led to believe!
5pm update: "In an interview with the
House Magazine former frontbencher Ann Winterton said that the policy
announced by shadow education secretary David Willetts was deeply
unpopular with ordinary members of the party." – ePolitix