Eight types of ambiguity



This short post outlines problems with ‘most able education’ – and what needs to change to bring about national improvement.

The broad premiss is that, following a period in which comparatively prescriptive, centralised, top-down programmes were de rigeur, the English education sector has become wedded to a market-driven philosophy and ‘school-led system-wide improvement’.

But this is failing to deliver in respect of ‘most able education’. There is insufficient capacity in the system, no proper infrastructure to network local practitioners, build their expertise and share effective practice. There is no co-ordinating entity.

We lack broad national consensus on the direction of travel. Several of the basic building blocks are missing. Everywhere there is fragmentation and dissonance. Profound ideological differences are an obstacle even to limited progress.

Unless we can shift from this position there is no realistic prospect of improvement. The quality of ‘most able education’ will remain a lottery…

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Pupil premium grammar schools



…Or ‘An exercise in policy design’.


This post considers proposals emerging for new selective schools that would select on the basis of ability or attainment and socio-economic disadvantage.

It covers the following ground:

  • The context provided by the selection green paper and the Opportunity Areas policy.
  • Recent Advocacy for ‘pupil premium grammar schools’ and similar entities.
  • Analysis of the model proposed.
  • An alternative, far more efficient model for the system-wide support of disadvantaged high attainers.


The selection green paper

Schools that work for everyone’ (September 2016) proposed increased between-school selection, including new fully or partially selective schools, but subject to certain conditions.

The introduction says:

‘We want more good schools, including selective schools, but we want selective schools to make sure they help children from all backgrounds.’

This immediately suggests some potential resistance to new selective schools reserved solely for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds.


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Investigating grammar streams


This post investigates the practice of introducing selective grammar streams into comprehensive schools.


  • Reviews recent advocacy for this practice.
  • Distinguishes grammar streams from other, related approaches to within-school selection.
  • Urges revision of the official distinction between ability and aptitude, based on the erroneous position taken by the School Adjudicator.
  • Places grammar streams in the wider context of the evidence base for and against streaming.
  • Adopts as a case study two grammar streams recently introduced by the United Learning Trust (ULT).
  • Concludes with a summary of key points and assessment of the potential value, or otherwise, of more grammar streaming as one dimension of government policy in the wake of the selection green paper.


Background – previous posts and the selection green paper

Publication of the green paper ‘Schools that work for everyone’ (September 2016) has generated much debate about the advantages and (mostly) disadvantages of…

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