Ofsted chief hits out at grammar school system

Sir Michael Wilshaw
Sir Michael Wilshaw

Grammar schools are ‘stuffed full’ of middle-class children and do not improve social mobility, the chief inspector of schools in England has said.

Bucks is one of the few counties left in England which retains the selective system via the 11-plus exam.

Grammar supporters argue the system allows poorer children to gain a high standard of education comparable to private schools.

But Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw told the Observer: “Grammar schools are stuffed full of middle-class kids. A tiny percentage are on free school meals: 3%. That is a nonsense.

“Anyone who thinks grammar schools are going to increase social mobility needs to look at those figures. I don’t think they work.”

In Bucks only 1.3% of grammar school children qualify for free school meals (because their parents receive certain benefits) compared to 9.4% in the county’s non-selective schools.

However, the figure does vary for individual schools. At the Sir Henry Floyd 6.2% are eligible for free school meals, Aylesbury High 1.8%, Aylesbury Grammar 0.7%.

Aylesbury High School says 15% of its pupils were formerly educated at private schools. Aylesbury Grammar and the Sir Henry Floyd were unable to provide a figure.

Conservative MP and former grammar school pupil David Davis told BBC News many poorer children ‘got on through having access to grammar schools’.

He said: “The reason grammar schools are dominated by the middle classes now is because we’ve shrunk the size of the sector.”

He added that ‘working-class kids’ could not get in ‘because they’ve been elbowed out by ambitious middle class parents’.