Who benefits from grammar schools? A case study of Buckinghamshire, England

Richard J Harris, Samuel Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Defenders of the academically selective grammar school system in England argue that grammar schools produce higher learning outcomes, also aiding social mobility by giving pupils from poorer households an educational opportunity they could not otherwise obtain. But such a view is contentious, so what matters is its validity: do grammar schools improve learning outcomes and do they do so to the benefit of pupils from lower income households? Addressing these issues, this paper focuses on an education authority where the selective system fully remains, Buckinghamshire. It uses education data to consider the prevalence of free school meal eligible pupils in grammar schools, and uses data matching methods to consider whether those who attend an academically selective school have greater success at age sixteen examination than pupils of comparable prior attainment who did not attend a grammar school. Comparisons also are made of attainment in a neighbouring authority not operating a selective system. The results suggest that pupils in grammar schools have greater examination success but that this ‘value-added’ comes at a cost to those not in the schools. The low prevalence of FSM eligible pupils in the grammar schools casts doubt on their ability to aid social mobility.
Translated title of the contributionWho benefits from grammar schools? A case study of Buckinghamshire, England
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-171
Number of pages21
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number2
Early online date9 Apr 2013
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • education policy
  • grammar schools
  • free school meals
  • Buckinghamshire
  • selection


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