Grammar Schools:Their formula for success revealed!


Thanks to everyone who responded to last week’s article on Grammar Schools. I feel I am slowly becoming able to articulate what I think about this.

An article in The Guardian today has clarified things further:

Latymer grammar school asks parents to make up financial shortfall

The gist of the story is that Latymer School, a Grammar School with 96% A*-C pass rate at A-level, has asked its parents for more money. The Guardian quotes the school as saying:

“We are now appealing to all parents and carers of current students to support the school either by making a new or increasing an existing voluntary regular donation. Typically the amount you would pledge would be £30-£50 per month (£360-600 per annum) over the period your child attends Latymer. This averages out at between £1.89 and £3.15 per school day and is considerably less than the average fees of an independent school.”

It seems like a perfectly reasonable request. I think Tiffin School asked – but did not require – something similar.

The contribution amounts to roughly £50,000 per school year (i.e. about £350,000 per year across all seven school years). But not all schools have parents who could afford such a contribution.

And isn’t the point of state schools that parents don’t have to pay directly?

Latymer has been able to keep going in the last couple of years despite cuts to their budget because of the Latymer Foundation, which clearly has substantial funds available.

In a  June 2015 letter to parents available on the school web site, the trustees write:

 To balance the budgets over the next two years, the Foundation will underwrite the school deficits for 2015/16 and 2016/17 for potentially in excess of £1million. The funding will help buffer the impact of the significant drop in funding and increased costs for the next 18 months.

Over half of this sum relates to one-off capital and non-recurring revenue expenditure. However, the school will need to use this window of time to plan for and adjust to the, as yet unknown, longer term forecast of revenue and capital funding streams being made available by central government.

The Latymer Foundation wishes to express its thanks to the large number of parents who have been donating to the Standards Fund over many years and whose continuing contributions make this funding support possible.

So it seems that there are two elements to the success of Latymer, and by inference, other successful Grammar Schools. We can summarise this simply:

Money + Selection = Success


I arrived at the money connection at the end of the previous article where I pointed out that private schools cost approximately twice as much as state schools.

But what about the role of selection?

Grammar schools select children who – at the relevant age – can display a particular kind of mental agility. Typically – as Latymer’s appeal suggests – this also selects parents with an ability to contribute financially to the school.

But did anyone else notice Ed’s radical suggestion in the discussion of last week’s article? He proposed selection by behaviour rather than ability.

He suggested that schools selected the 95% of children who – given the right culture – are capable of benefiting from an academic education.

An alternative statement would be that we identify the 5% of children who disrupt every class they are in, and do something – I have no idea what – to engage them in a way which doesn’t disrupt the education of the majority.


In the end, its about the money

The education of the majority of people is a critical cultural endeavour. Our culture is our collective treasure.

We need more than an elite capable of understanding the technology our our brave new world. We do need that elite – but we need a culture in which their enhanced skills make sense.

But this costs money.

And when we see how expensive it is in the private sector – supposedly the most efficient provider of services – is it any surprise that the state sector struggles on half that level of funding? Maybe the formula is even simpler:

Money + Selection = Success

[October 2nd 2016: Weight this morning 74.0 kg: Anxiety: Medium]

3 Responses to “Grammar Schools:Their formula for success revealed!”

  1. Victor Venema Says:

    Isn’t the simple version:
    Selection = apparent Success

    As long as the eduction isn’t too terrible, the ability to select the best students produces nearly all of the success. The students get the right network and can signal they are good by the school they come from.

  2. protonsforbreakfast Says:


    You are so skilled at being able to pick out measurement bias.


  3. edhui Says:

    I forgot to mention- we need to remember the experiments that have been done- that knowledgeable teachers with a blackboard and chalk in front of 30 kids in rows have produced the best scientists of the 20th and 21st centuries. We on this forum are old enough to know that technology in school is not needed to educate people like us, who use modern technology where it’s needed in our work and in our lives.

    Many things drive up the costs of education, but some of them are entirely unproved. Take the disaster of the interactive whiteboard. About a decade ago, the government decided that the interactive whiteboard was the big thing in education, and before long every school was boasting in its prospectus that it had x interactive whiteboards, as if that was the deciding factor in educational excellence. It turns out that the only impact that programme had in schools was the introduction of web connected computers and projectors into classrooms- the whiteboards, the most expensive part of that installation, made no measurable difference at all. The brainwashing carried out by the tech manufacturers was such that even today, teachers will report that their whiteboards aren’t working when their projectors die (I need it fixed now!), but they report that the interactivity has died when their actual whiteboards die (Don’t worry- when you’ve got time…)

    I remember going to an educational technology show and seeing the first Microsoft Surface- not the current tablet thing, but the big touch screen mounted horizontally as a table. It was demonstrated with some children doing a jigsaw- dragging pieces around the screen. I asked the salesman what educational advantage that had over a real jigsaw. He had no answer. £6,000 for a table with a jigsaw on it. (Of course it could run other apps, but nobody could show us anything that could justify its cost.)

    Technology is not a capital expenditure. It’s a subscription. If you buy a trolley of laptops, you are unlikely to achieve better results than using the money to buy a better teaching ratio. But you won’t achieve any results at all unless you develop schemes of work that include lessons that actually use the laptops. Those lessons then get ruined if you have wifi problems, if one or two laptops have faulty batteries, or if the 5% pick keys off the keyboards.

    Let’s assume the best case and your laptops work all the time. The batteries die after about 3 years, and then you have to replace the batteries on old laptops, or replace the laptops. If you can make laptops last 4 years, you’re doing well. So if you want a trolley of laptops, you have to budget over the years to buy 1/4 of your stock every year. That’s about £4000 a year per trolley (less for chromebooks), plus support and software and storage and CPD for teachers. If you don’t budget for that, you’re into the dark educational world of spending more to teach less efficiently than if you had no tech at all. I can walk into any classroom and teach a maths or science lesson, but if I’ve planned a tech lesson and the tech doesn’t work, I’ve got to be an experienced and knowledgeable teacher to instantly switch and teach a traditional lesson without skipping a beat. Today’s young teachers trained in a tech saturated system can’t do that, so every day hundreds of lessons around the country are being ruined by tech failure. That’s time the students never get back.

    Parents need to learn to spot schools with great teachers, who understand how little technology they need, and use what tech they have really well. These are not the schools that tell you how much tech they have without explaining why they have it.

    Because tech is no substitute for great teachers teaching students who turn up ready to learn. Michael- the tragedy was not that the school taught your son what he knew since he was two years old. The tragedy was that it spent money on the tech it used to do that.

    Money only leads to success if it’s not spent on technology that contributes nothing to teaching and learning.

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