Question Nikkie Education

Grammar schools and social/cultural cohesion

Do recent UK government plans to open more grammar schools pose threats to social and cultural cohesion?

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Answer Expert #26888

The current May administration announced in September 2016 that it would end a cross-party consensus on the limiting of grammar school expansion. The plans to create additional schools which would be segregated on ability grounds, at the entry point to secondary education at Year 7, through a return to 11-plus examination performance criteria were justified on the grounds of there already being informal segregation in the school system through geographic location and housing affordability near such already-established schools (Stewart and Walker, 2016). Related measures announced simultaneously include the expansion of schools selecting on faith grounds; the consultative green paper documenting the proposals and their underpinning rationale pointed to both parental demand; and better projected educational achievement as motivating factors (Department for Education, 2016). Initial criticisms have been widespread, however. Labour peer and shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti has been among many who have vocalised concerns about social segregation at 11 as a consequence of a move to wider grammar schooling availability, noting that there are dimensions of class, gender and ethnicity which are impacted upon unfairly and disproportionately by such proposals (Press Association, 2016). From a wider perspective, the links between poverty, geographic location, and educational attainment has been well documented; the implication is that selective schools will serve only to increase such social divisions (Savage, 2015). The links between education and social mobility are open, though, to multiple interpretations from theoretical and political standpoints; whatever the consultation delivers in terms of enacted policy later in the current administration is certain to be contentious among educationalists and in wider society (Brown, Reay, and Vincent, 2015).


Brown, P., Reay, D. and Vincent, C. (eds.) (2015) Education and social mobility. Abingdon: Routledge.
Department for Education (2016) Schools that work for everyone: government consultation. Available at: (Accessed: 11 October 2016).
Press Association (2016) Shami Chakrabarti says grammar schools enforce segregation. Available at: (Accessed: 11 October 2016).
Savage, M. (2015) Social class in the 21st century. London: Pelican.
Stewart, H. and Walker, P. (2016) Theresa May to end ban on new grammar schools. Available at: (Accessed: 11 October 2016).