Only a fully comprehensive and fully integrated education system can guarantee that school admissions are fair.
In England, there are 12 wholly selective local authorities and there are also many non-selective local authorities in which a handful of grammar schools still remain.
Grammar schools' admissions are shrouded in secrecy. No information about the criteria on which their admissions are run, the administration of 11-plus tests, or appeals processes for children who fail, are available to the public.
No official body oversees the 11-plus or grammar school admissions. This lack of accountability means that parents in selective areas are often unaware that:
• The 11-plus test selects predominantly pupils from wealthy backgrounds, with 14% of grammar school pupils previously educated in the private sector.
• Just 2.4% of all grammar school pupils are on free school meals. Many people still believe grammar schools work for social mobility, yet the opposite is the case. Grammar schools do not publish the shameful statistics showing how few disadvantaged and SEN pupils access their schools compared to neighbouring non-selective schools.
• The 11 plus test is unregulated. Some grammar schools devise their own tests, without the need to demonstrate that their selection test is accurate or fair. Analysis of sets of 11-plus results show that many tests have been marked with a gender and/or age bias.
• A 'grammar school standard' is a myth propagated by selective schools. There are over 100, 11-plus tests with different pass marks or which are marked with widely differing margins of error. A child who fails the 11-plus could pass the same test if sat on another day, or if s/he sat a different 11-plus test set by another school.
• Some grammar schools select the top 40% of attainers, while others select only the top 5%
• In some selective areas, historical agreements over the proportion of pupils in need of a grammar school place are being ignored. A lack of accountability means that the proportion of children who are now being granted a grammar school place has doubled to coincide with grammar school expansion.
• An estimated £25 million a year is spent on 11 plus coaching with many families spending £2,000 or more on 11 plus tuition. Selective authorities refuse to acknowledge the pressure felt by parents to spend money on tutors.
• There is no evidence that any 11 plus test is 'tutor-proof' but selective schools and authorities still make this preposterous claim.
• Selective authorities waste money commissioning expensive 11-plus tests. A tailor-made 11-plus test costs around £15,000.
• Results in selective authorities are poor, especially for disadvantaged pupils and high attaining pupils attending 'secondary modern' schools.
• Higher attaining pupils in secondary moderns are less likely to progress to university.
Labour should increase the level of accountability to all schools using restrictive and/or selective admission policies. School admissions should be overseen by a local body and admission to secondary education should not be based on tests of 'ability' or aptitude.
Selective education is undemocratic, avoids scrutiny, and fails to answer to local people. Given the overwhelming evidence of the problems of the 11-plus, coupled with the poor results and injustices of selective education, Comprehensive Future urges Labour to commit to the phasing out of the 11-plus. Labour should offer incentives, and support, to selective areas to ensure all schools offer comprehensive admissions.