Once the grammar school’s pupils’ wealth and higher abilities are accounted for, grammars do not perform better than non-selective state schools, a study reveals.

The researchers from Durham University claim that the ‘apparent success’ of grammar schools is down to having more advantaged and brighter pupils attending them.

They add that growing the number of selective schools in England is dangerous for equality.

Grammar schools are popular since they have good records of academic achievement and dominate school league tables.

Grammar schools are no more effective than other schools

However, the research suggests that the social backgrounds and abilities of pupils means that grammar schools are no more effective than other schools.

The researchers also highlight that grammar schools only take a small number of pupils who qualify for free school meals.

They add that this is an important issue since these pupils tend to see their academic performance decline for every year they claim free school meals.

Durham’s School of Education, Prof Stephen Gorard, said: “Dividing children from an early age into the most able does appear to lead to better results.”

‘No clear gain’ from the social segregation that children experience

He added that there is ‘no clear gain’ from the social segregation that children experience in England’s selective areas.

Prof Gorard said: “This isn’t to decry schools that are grammars currently or their work or the staff.”

He said the policy for selective schools ‘is a bad one’ and there are no improvements to overall results.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We want to give parents greater choice to pick schools and for every child to receive a good education that is right for them. Grammar schools are part of this.”

60% of grammar schools prioritise admissions

He added that 60% of grammar schools prioritise admissions already for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and the Department is working closely to widen access to more.

He added: “The research shows that pupils from a disadvantaged background will make better progress in core subjects in a selective school and gain better results.”

The NAHT’s general secretary, Paul Whiteman, said: “There is evidence that selecting at 11 will work against the government’s ambition of boosting social mobility.

“Creating new grammar schools is the best way to help children from a disadvantaged background and a greater investment in better quality early years education will have a better impact on life chances so at 11 is too late for bridging the gap.”