There are currently around 163 state funded grammar schools located in 36 English local authorities, with around 167,000 pupils between them. There are a further 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland, but none in Wales or Scotland. Almost half of these are in what are considered 'selective authorities' (eg Kent and Buckinghamshire), where around one in five local children are selected for grammar school entry based on ability. The others are areas such as Barnet or Kingston, with only a few grammar schools.
How to find a state grammar school
Word of warning: not all selective grammar schools have 'grammar' in their name. Bournemouth School and Tiffin School are just two examples. Likewise, many schools with grammar in their name are actually fee-paying independent schools (Bradford Grammar School and Bristol Grammar School for example).
Do you have to live in a certain area?
You don't necessarily have to live within an area with state grammar schools to gain a place at one. Some schools recruit from beyond their home authority, while others, such as Ripon Grammar School, offer boarding facilities for children with an identified 'boarding need.' However, the majority now give preference to those living in defined catchment areas, or within reasonable commuting distance of the school, with distance often used as a tie-break.
How can I find out what my local ones are like?
Open days are a great way for you and your child to get a feel for the school. If you can’t attend on these designated days, most schools welcome parents on an appointment basis throughout the school term.
Why do we have them?
The term grammar school was coined in medieval times, but modern-day state grammar schools were the result of the 1944 Education Act, which made provision for a tripartite system of education, open to all. The tripartite system comprised of:
- Grammar schools for the academically able
- Tertiary schools for those with a technical bent
- Secondary moderns for everyone else.
In reality very few tertiary schools were opened, secondary moderns became synonymous, in many areas, with 'sink school', and grammar schools, which were designed to select the top 25 per cent of academically able pupils by means of an 11+ examination, were criticised for being elitist and divisive.
In 1965, the government began phasing out grammar schools in favour of comprehensive schools for all-comers. While some grammar schools became comprehensive, others opted to become fee-paying schools.
As a result of parental pressure and decisions at local level, some authorities hung on to their grammar schools, with places often hard fought for. In 1998 the government put an outright ban on new grammar schools being created, but many of the existing ones are now being funded to increase their intake, and several are bidding to open new 'satellite' schools many miles away.
Grammar schools – why are they controversial?
Grammar schools continue to divide opinion. Supporters believe a grammar school education gives all children, regardless of social class, a passport to a good education and future. Detractors point out that grammar schools take very few pupils entitled to free school meals, and denounce them as elitist, divisive and damaging to the moral and esteem of children who feel themselves to be failures at the age of 11.
Moreover, many view grammar schools, which are primarily located in middle class areas, as the preserve of that class - with intensive private tuition and a house in a good area as precursors to entry.
Grammar schools themselves are keen to dispel this view and ensure they attract the brightest children, rather than those best prepared to pass entrance exams. Many schools continually review their entry procedure and examination structure in an attempt to thwart attempts by parents to skew the system. Some, such as King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls, now reserve up to 20 per cent of places for children on pupil premium.
Optimise your chance of success when applying to a grammar school, speak to a school expert consultant today. Phone 020 3286 6824 or email [email protected]
Subscribe now for instant access to more than 1,300 reviews
Our impartial, candid school reviews have been helping parents make educational decisions for more than 30 years. We currently feature reviews of nearly a hundred academically selective state schools. To see what we have to say about the schools which interest your family, you can order one of our books from the shop or alternatively, subscribe online now to get instant access for as little as £0.29 a day.