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Ahead of the debate on 13 October 2016 on the Government’s proposals for the extension of grammar schools and selection in education, this Library briefing outlines the government policy proposals regarding the expansion of academic selection in schools in England. It summaries the reactions to the Government’s policy proposals from Westminster, figures in the education sector and think tanks. It also provides a summary of the findings of a number of recent research studies on the impact of existing grammar schools on pupil performance and social mobility.

Current Grammar Schools

There currently exist 163 state-funded grammar schools in England, of which 140 are academies. In total, 166,517 students in England are educated in grammar schools, 5.2 percent of all secondary school pupils. This proportion has remained roughly the same since the late 1970s. The creation of new state-funded selective schools was banned under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.

Government Proposals: Schools That Work for Everyone

The Government set out its proposals for reforming the schools systems in England in a consultation entitled Schools That Work for Everyone, published on 12 September 2016. This consultation included proposals for the expansion of academic selection in schools. This included proposals for the further expansion of existing grammar schools, for the creation of new selective free schools and to allow existing schools to become selective schools. Selective schools would also be required to participate in the improvement of non-selective schools in their area. The Government stated that its ambition was to:

[…] create an education system that will allow anyone in this country, no matter what their background or where they are from, to go as far as their talents will take them.

Other proposals set out in the consultation included requiring independent schools to assist the state-funded sector, for universities to become involved in school quality and pupil attainment and the removal of the 50 percent cap on children admitted by faith at oversubscribed free schools. 


The proposals were welcomed by campaigners supporting the creation of new grammar schools, including the Conservative MP and grammar schools campaigner Graham Brady, the Centre for Policy Studies and the UK Independence Party. The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have both stated they opposed the creation of new grammar schools. Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, accused the Government of forming its policy on the basis of “dogma” rather than evidence.

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