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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Miss Binwei Lu

Lu, B. (2020). Selection on attainment? Local authorities, pupil backgrounds, attainment and grammar school opportunities. Educational Review 72(1): 68-87.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper uses the National Pupil Database to explore how grammar school opportunities vary among pupil groups, and how grammar school opportunities correlate with the Local Authorities (LAs), pupil backgrounds and attainment. The results show that grammar school admission is relatively fair, based on its selection criterion, but there is no evidence that grammar schools can promote social mobility by providing more opportunities for disadvantaged pupils, which is the major claim supporting their expansion. Snapshots of grammar school opportunities in each LA, and the probability of attending grammar schools for four pupil subgroups, are examined. Then logistic regression models controlling for pupil backgrounds and attainment are created. Findings reveal that the varied proportion of grammar school places in each LA leads to unbalanced grammar school opportunities between them, making the difficulty of attending grammar schools diverse. The difference in grammar school opportunities between LAs has benefited a group of pupils moving outside their home LAs for secondary education, usually from more advantaged families. In LAs selecting more than 20% of their pupils into grammar schools, pupils eligible for free school meals, pupils with special educational needs, native English speakers and white pupils are less likely to go to grammar schools, while those from richer areas, from minority ethnic groups and those younger within a year group have higher chances when controlled for prior attainment. The difference in grammar school opportunities between social groups is largely the stratification of early-age attainment, and is unlikely the result of deliberately biased selection process.