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The Ins and Outs of Selective Secondary Schools: A Debate

Anastasia de Waal (ed.), March 2015

Should secondary schools be allowed to select, and if so, on what basis? These questions have long been a battleground of the English education system and have too often yielded answers that reduce the issue to oversimplified dichotomies.

The Ins and Outs of Selective Secondary Schools: A Debate gathers a diverse range of key thinkers to evaluate the modern scope of secondary school selection in all its evolving complexity – including by ability, fee, faith and stealth.

With authors including head teachers, politicians, academics, campaigners and commentators, the book incorporates a rich mix of practitioners’ testimony, research evidence on educational outcomes and analysis of consecutive governments’ policy, to scrutinise practice as much as principle, and to tackle both the contentious theory and realities of selection.

In determining whether there is such a thing as ‘the right school for the right child’, the authors address whether we can promote social mobility without hiving off sections of society; who exactly selective secondary schools serve; and whether a system without selection is actually achievable, given the emergence of covert selection via the housing market.

Setting these issues within the context of today’s educational and socio – economic landscape, The Ins and Outs of Selective Secondary Schools: A Debate ultimately guides the reader towards the bigger debate behind selection, namely about the dilemmas we face as a society in determining what it is we want to achieve through education.


Geoff Barton (Head Teacher, King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds), Graham Brady MP (Member of Parliament for Altrincham and Sale West), Nicole Chapman (Joint President, Association of State Girls’ Schools) Professor John Coldron (Emeritus Professor, Centre for Education and Inclusion Research), Nic Dakin MP (Member of Parliament for Scunthorpe), David Davis MP (Member of Parliament for Haltemprice and Howden), Rev Nigel Genders (Church of England Chief Education Officer), Gabriel Heller Sahlgren, (Research Director, Centre for the Study of Market Reform of Education), Peter Hitchens (columnist, Mail on Sunday), Chris Keates (General Secretary, NASUWT), Neal Lawson (Chair, Compass), Charlotte Marten (Chair, Grammar School Heads’ Association), Fiona Millar (education campaigner and journalist), Alice Phillips (Vice-President, Girls’ Schools Association), Eddie Playfair (Principal, Newham Sixth Form College), Stephen Pollard (Editor, Jewish Chronicle), Professor Sally Power (Director of Research, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University), Rabbi Jonathan Romain (Chair, Accord Coalition), Neil Roskilly (Chief Executive, Independent Schools Association), Gillan Scott (Deputy Editor, religio-political blog Archbishop Cranmer), Professor Alan Smithers (Director, Centre for Education and Employment, University of Buckingham), Professor Emer Smyth (Research Professor, Economic and Social Research Institute), Henry Stewart (Co-Founder, Local Schools Network), Peter Tait (Headmaster, Sherborne Preparatory School), Margaret Tulloch (Secretary, Comprehensive Future), Professor Geoff Whitty (Director Emeritus, Institute of Education), Dr Joanna Williams (Director, Study of Higher Education University of Kent)

Peter Hitchens: Why Is Selection by Wealth Better Than Selection by Ability?

In the Media

‘Sharp-elbowed’ parents gaining unfair share of school places, new book claims The Independent

Give parents vouchers for school choice The Times

Introduce selective free schools, MP says The Daily Telegraph

I’m working to make education fairer. But I’m still not sure what ‘fairer’ means The Spectator

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