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Children from rich families much more likely to secure grammar school places

Many schools have retained the right to use academic selection, but children now have to undergo different unregulated tests

CHILDREN from rich families are much more likely to secure grammar school places as they reap rewards from private tutoring, a study has found.

Research revealed the huge advantage richer families gain by using private tutors in the race for grammar school places.

A new paper from the UCL Institute of Education shows that private tutoring means pupils from high-income families are much more likely to get into grammar schools than equally bright pupils from low-income families.

The research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, by Professor John Jerrim and Sam Sims, looked at more than 1,800 children from grammar school areas in England and Northern Ireland.

A strong association between family income and grammar school attendance was found in Northern Ireland. Children from high-income families were 33 percentage points more likely to attend a grammar school than low-income children of equal academic ability.

Former education minister Peter Weir lifted a ban on 11-plus coaching in school - a move criticised by teachers and rival politicians as "immature" and "out of step".

Previously, schools had been warned against distorting the curriculum by facilitating unregulated tests "in any way".

Grammar schools continue to run their own unofficial entrance exams. The last state-sponsored 11-plus was held in November 2008.

The new study found high-income families were much more likely than low-income families to use private tutors to ‘coach’ their child for the grammar school entrance test.

Less than 10 per cent of children from families with below average incomes receive coaching, compared to around 30 per cent from the top quarter of family income.

Overall, around 70 per cent of those who received tutoring got into a grammar school, compared to just 14 per cent of those who did not.

The Nuffield Foundation's Director of Education, Josh Hillman, said expanding grammar schools would work against social mobility by perpetuating the current inequality in access, which leaves children from low and middle income families severely underrepresented.

"Grammar schools are a contentious subject, so there is a vital role to play for independent funders like the Nuffield Foundation in ensuring that high quality research evidence is available to inform policy decisions," he said.

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