A report published by Ofsted this week reveals that bright children in England perform much better at state grammar schools than at state comprehensive schools.
The report titled “The Most Able Students – An Update On Progress Since June 2013” was published on 3rd March 2015. The report laments the huge under performance of bright children in comprehensive schools compared to grammar schools. The report notes that this problem was highlighted by Ofsted two years previously, when comprehensives were instructed to improve their offering to bright children. However, the report concludes that no discernible improvement has been made by comprehensives to this problem over those two years. The report can be accessed at the link below.
What Bright Pupils Now At School Think Of Their Comprehensive Education
In compiling its report, Ofsted visited 40 comprehensive schools in England and interviewed bright students currently in Year 8, who are due to sit their GCSEs in 2018. Ofsted reported the following shocking feedback from these students’ experiences of attending comprehensive schools (contained on pages 15 and 16 of Ofsted’s report):
“One Year 8 student commented:
‘Most of the stuff I know already and you have to complete the simple stuff first to get to the more advanced things.’
“Another Year 8 student reflected on the difference between work in primary school and the work he did currently:
‘Most lessons aren’t as interesting now……They are now boring’.’
“Most students said there were lessons that did not challenge them; the work was repetitive and covered what they had already learnt in Key Stage 2. A few gave examples of where their learning had been slowed by teachers pitching the work to the lowest ability or insisting that all students listened to explanations the most able did not need. For example, one student said that in IT the teacher regularly freezes the computer screen to explain the solution to a problem experienced by only one or two students.
“In 25 of the secondary schools visited, most able students in Key Stage 3 reported that their learning was affected by low-level disruption. This took the form of chatting, fidgeting or asking ‘silly’ questions intended to distract the teacher. One student summed this up in a response to the online survey:
‘The school focuses far too much on pupils who are either disruptive or out of control in lessons and therefore do not give every other pupil an equal amount of focus and help.’
“The quality of the work and tasks that teachers set for students across different subjects was patchy, particularly outside the core subjects. The work given to individual students varied, for example, from challenging algebraic equations in mathematics to undemanding comprehension tasks in citizenship, which one student described as ‘ridiculously easy’.
“Year 8 students typically said their school could do more to develop their interests. One Year 8 student reflected on the lack of encouragement they had:
‘I took a musical interest in playing the piano, but my teacher in my music lesson did not encourage me to play the piano to the best of my abilities. At parents’ evening I went to my music teacher and she didn’t even know who I was.’
“Another expressed frustration at the lack of variety open to Year 8 students:
‘I want to do music, psychology and art but there are no art or science clubs that I have been informed of. Also there are music clubs, but none for just lower years’.”
The Lost Generation
Ofsted’s solution to the under performance of bright children is for comprehensives to try even harder to cater for these children’s needs, even though they have tried and failed to achieve this over the previous two years.
Unfortunately, Ofsted does not propose the obvious solution, which is revealed by the graph on page 25 of their report (click here) – which shows that children who scored highly at primary school* and who then attended a grammar school achieved nearly twice the number of top grades in GCSE Maths and English than children who scored highly at primary school* but who then attended a comprehensive school.
Therefore, the solution to the problem of the under performance of bright children in comprehensive schools is to let those children attend grammar schools.
In fact, for the first time, the Ofsted figures reveal the true scale of this problem – namely that there were 95,897^ state school children in England in 2014 who were educated at comprehensive schools and who performed highly* in Maths at primary school but then failed to score highly** in Maths GCSE. Of these children, 54,562^^ (nearly 57%) would have scored highly if they had attended a grammar school***. The equivalent figure for English GCSE is 34,697^^^.
The Ofsted figures starkly reveal that there were 69,954^^^^ bright state school children in England in 2014 who failed to score highly in English or Maths GCSE at their comprehensive schools, but who would have scored highly if they had attended a grammar school***.
Incredibly the number of bright children in England in 2014 who were failed in this way by the comprehensive system was at least 70,000. And this was for just one academic year in Maths and English, and does not take into account children who were let down in other subjects.
In fact, there are nearly one million bright children currently attending state schools in England who will not succeed in fulfilling their potential under the comprehensive system, but who would succeed if they could attend a grammar school****.
What a tragedy for this “Lost Generation” of children that they cannot attend grammar schools, and what a loss of talent for our country!
Latest Campaign News
We are very fortunate to live in Kent where grammar schools still exist county-wide, so that our bright children are not failed by the state education system. However, the absence of a grammar school in Sevenoaks means that we are continuing to actively campaign for a new grammar in the town, including our appearance earlier this week on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:-
On the same day, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan was asked about grammar schools in The House of Commons:-
If this represents the level of political debate on this important matter, then the General Election cannot come soon enough.
*Scoring highly at primary school means attaining Level 5 at Key Stage 2 in Year 6 at primary school.
**Scoring highly means achieving an A* or A grade at GCSE.
***Assuming that if those children had attended a grammar school then they would have performed at the same level as existing grammar school children.
****Assuming that Ofsted’s figures for previous years show the same pattern as its 2014 figures – ie. 70,000 bright children per year who attain Level 5 at Key Stage 2 in Year 6 at primary school in Maths or English but fail to achieve an A* or A grade at GCSE in Year 11 at their comprehensive, but who would have attained A* or A in GCSE if they had attained a grammar school (assuming that if those children had attended a grammar school then they would have performed at the same level as existing grammar school children).
There are 14 years of school attendance from Reception Year to Year 13. 70,000 x 14 years = 980,000 children, which is nearly one million.
^165,340 x 58% = 95,897
^^165,340 x (75-42)% = 54,562
^^^138,789 x (64-39)% = 34,697
^^^^(((165340-91994)/165340) x 34697) + 54562 = 69,954