The Performance of Partially Selective Schools in England

Daniele Bernardinelli, Karen Wespieser, Claudia Sumner, Jennifer Garry, Louis Coiffait

09 March 2017

Partially selective schools admit a proportion of pupils by academic ability and/or subject aptitude and a proportion by commonly used non-selective criteria.

New analysis by NFER comparing the results of pupils at partially selective schools with comparable pupils at similar non-selective schools shows that there is no overall academic benefit to attending a partially selective school.

Our analysis was based on data from the 38 partially selective schools in England that select more than ten per cent of pupils but are not wholly selective grammar schools. Since the current Admission Code permits schools with a subject specialism to admit up to ten per cent of pupils by aptitude in the specialism (music, sport, technology, languages or the arts), any proposal to expand selection would involve raising the limit and allowing the first increase in selection by ability in English schools for twenty years.

Key Findings

  • Pupils with high prior attainment make less progress in maths at partially selective schools than their peers at non-selective schools
  • Pupils with low prior attainment are significantly less likely to achieve 5 good GCSEs, including English and maths than their peers at non-selective schools
  • Some partially selective schools have over-complex admissions policies and over-subscription criteria that are lengthy and difficult to navigate and which may act as an additional barrier to applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds.