Comprehensive systems provide high-quality, inclusive education

  • Research by the OECD has shown that selective systems are not only more socially segregated, they are also less effective than inclusive ones. The top education systems in the world – including Korea, Finland and Canada – are comprehensive.
  • The 2009 PISA results showed that comprehensive school systems produce better and more equitable results:

“Systems that show high performance and an equitable distribution of learning outcomes tend to be comprehensive, requiring teachers and schools to embrace diverse student populations through personalised educational pathways. In contrast, school systems that assume that students have different destinations with different expectations and differentiation in terms of how they are placed in schools, classes and grades often show less equitable outcomes without an overall performance advantage.” 1

  • In England, comprehensive schools have demonstrated that it is possible to provide high-quality, inclusive education for all children, with 86% of state-funded schools currently rated good or outstanding. A return to selection puts this progress at risk.
  • England's highest-performing local authority areas are comprehensive. The London Challenge programme has brought about a transformation of London schools since the 1990s. London has few grammar schools but is widely recognised as a world-class education system. It was successful because it involved collaboration and support between schools, not division and competition.2
  • Grammar schools do not raise educational standards for the majority of children. Although pupils who pass the 11+ and are admitted to grammar schools generally achieve well, this is at the expense of the majority of children who do not get a grammar school place. The evidence shows that the attainment of pupils at secondary moderns is lower than that of comprehensive schools. 3
  • There is widespread support for comprehensive education and the idea that parents should be able to send their children to a good local school. In 2011-12 the British Social Attitudes survey found that 63 per cent of people thought that parents in general should send their children to the nearest state school. A further 22 per cent who did not support this idea outright would have done so if schools were more equal in their quality and their mix of pupils. Six in ten (61%) thought the quality of education should be the same for all children. 4

1 OECD (2010), PISA 2009 Results: What Makes a School Successful? - Resources, Policies and Practices, (Volume IV), p. 13 (emphasis added).

2 See Merryn Hutchings et al. (2012), Evaluation of the City Challenge programme, Department for Education.

3 Freddie Whittaker (25 July 2016) ‘Fact-check: Do the arguments for new grammar schools stack up?’, Schools Week.

4 NatCen (2012), British Social Attitudes 28, p. 58