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Grammar Schools in the UK: pros and cons

72 years after their creation, Grammar schools are still making the headlines of British political debate.

Grammar Schools: the most highly coveted and debated schools in the UK

The 2016 British Prime Minister Theresa May (Conservative Party) announced that she will stop the ban on the creation of new Grammar Schools, which itself had been put in place since 1998 by the Labour Party.

But what are Grammar Schools?

Grammar schools are State secondary schools, academically selective, contrary to Comprehensive secondary schools, which do not select their students based on academic tests.

Each political party in the UK has been keeping its ideological position and the debate about whether creating new Grammar schools has become more and more passionate.

Here are some pros and cons arguments to try and sum up the debate:

The pros arguments

  1. Grammar Schools are very good performers in terms of academic results
  2. They can improve social mobility by mixing privilege students with less privilege students
  3. For students coming from low-income families, it gives them the opportunity to attend school of high academic standard, for free
  4. There isn’t necessarily a catchment area, thereby excluding the house prices selection that might occur with other types of schools
  5. The Ethos of Grammar schools provides an environment that will create academic achievement

 The cons arguments

  1. Public money would be better spent improving Comprehensive schools rather than selective schools
  2. The 11+ test divides too early academically the children. At 10 years old, some children are not mature enough to pass the test.
  3. Only wealthy families will be able to provide tutoring to help their children to pass the admission test
  4. Too much pressure is put on children of Primary Stage to prepare this exam

To try to oppose the cons argument, Theresa May’s 2016 proposal is to force new selective schools to take a minimum proportion of pupils from lower income households and in parallel to this, to require from them to establish a new non-selective free school in areas with a high density of lower income households.

The project is still on the consultation phase but we can be sure the future debates at the Parliament will be stormy and boisterous.


Note: this post was originally published in November 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

A practical, in-depth guide to grammar schools in London

All the information you need to find the right London grammar school for your child, and apply for a place:

  • A list of all grammar schools in London – updated 2023
  • A map to show the exact location of every grammar school in London
  • Overview of the grammar school education system
  • Which school year for joining a grammar school
  • When and how to apply for grammar schools
  • Useful links to the relevant local authority for the applications
  • Information on taking the entrance exam including how to prepare
  • Links to essential websites and resources
More info!
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