Press release

No academic benefit to attending partially selective schools

8 March 2017

New analysis(1) published today by NFER compares the results of pupils at partially selective schools with comparable pupils at similar, non-selective schools and shows that there is no overall academic benefit to attending a partially selective school.

The analysis also finds that some of the outcomes for pupils with low prior attainment are worse at partially selective schools than for their peers at non-selective schools(2).

The Department for Education’s consultation paper ‘Schools that work for everyone’, published last September, proposed ‘a case for relaxing restrictions on selective education, in order to provide more good school places within the system’(3). The consultation also suggested support for ‘proposals to establish new partially selective schools’. This latest analysis by NFER of partially selective schools arose from its submission(4) to the DfE’s consultation.

Partially selective schools admit a proportion of pupils by academic ability and/or subject aptitude and a proportion by commonly used non-selective criteria. NFER’s analysis was based on data from 38 partially selective schools in England that select more than ten per cent of pupils but are not wholly selective grammar schools. These were identified through a review of secondary school admissions policies.

Other findings include:

NFER Chief Executive Carole Willis said: “Schools are already coping with considerable change in an education landscape that is continuing to evolve. Further changes need to be based on sound analysis of whether they are likely to achieve the desired outcomes. This analysis suggests partial selection is not an effective way of increasing the number of good school places.”


For further information please contact: Pippa Cox 01753 637177 or Jane Parrack 01753 637245

Notes for editors

  1. Wespieser, K., Sumner, C., Garry, J., Bernardinelli, D. and Coiffait, L. (2017). The performance of partially selective schools in England. Slough: NFER
  2. Pupils with low prior attainment who attend partially selective schools are around eight per cent less likely to achieve 5 A* to C grades at GCSE (including English and maths) than their peers in non-selective schools.
  4. A summary of NFER’s response to the DfE consultation Schools that work for everyone can be found here.
  5. NFER is a leading independent provider of rigorous research and insights in education, working to create an excellent education for all children and young people. We are a charity and our robust and innovative research, assessments and other services are widely known and used by key decision-makers. Any surplus generated is reinvested in projects to support our charitable purpose.; @TheNFER