House of Commons Library

Grammar school statistics

Published Friday, March 10, 2017

The number of state grammar schools peaked at almost 1,300 in the mid-1960s when around one-quarter of all pupils in state secondaries attended grammars. Their number started falling soon after with the fastest period of decline was in the 1970s. The proportion of pupils in grammars fell to below 20% in the early 1970s, below 10% in the mid-1970s and has been 5% or less from the late 1970s onwards. There are currently 163 grammar schools in England with a total of 167,000 pupils.

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New GCSE performance measures for 2016 show that pupils at grammar schools acheived an average of two grades higher per subject than those at comprehensive schools. They also made more progress (from primary school test results), but the gap was narrower at around one third of a grade per subject.

The number of state grammar schools peaked at almost 1,300 in the mid-1960s when around one-quarter of all pupils in state secondaries attended grammars. Their number started falling soon after. The fastest period of decline was the 1970s; between 1971 and 1978 650 grammar schools closed. The proportion of pupils in grammars fell to below 20% in the early 1970s, below 10% in the mid-1970s and has been 5% or less from the late 1970s onwards.

There are currently 163 grammar schools in England with a total of 167,000 pupils. These pupils are much less likely to have special education needs or be eligible for free school meals than average. Grammar schools have a slightly higher than average proportion of non-white pupils.

This note gives a brief summary of statistics on grammar schools –state schools that select all or virtually all of their pupils by ability. It includes trends in the number and share of pupils at grammar schools since the late 1940s and a snapshot of current grammars. Most of the data are for England only.

Commons Briefing papers SN01398

Author: Paul Bolton

Topic: Schools

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