Grammar schools are cheaper…

Reader Suilven picked up this nice little factoid contained within a written answer to the question “what the average funding per child was in each (a) grammar school and (b) other secondary school in Northern Ireland in each of the past 10 years.” It turns out that Grammars are cheaper per pupil on average than other secondary schools by something in the region of 10% over the last ten years at least.

  • this is also true of Irish medium schools – does this mean that the Grammar School supporters will come out and support the Irish medium sector which is under constant attack from the DUP and UUP?

  • Mark McGregor

    Certainly to be expected as Grammar Schools can’t fill their places with those passing the 11+ and top -up with other grades ensuring they have higher subscription and lower overheads per pupil and secondary schools tend to suffer from under-subscription and higher overheads per pupil. Certainly nothing to do with the actual education costs in the school and merely an emphasis of how the Grammar schools get two bites of the cherry.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Wow, jealousy AND resentment.
    What a perfect republican pair you two make.

  • Mark McGregor

    SRR,

    Profound. I went to a Grammar School, how does this jealousy and resentment of mine work? Or is it just you can’t deal with the argument being presented?

  • nmc

    Do you have a point SRR? Is the info provided by the two posters above inaccurate in some way?

    What a perfect republican pair you two make.

    Ah I see, you’re trying to apply a gross generalisation where all them dirty fenians are jealous and resentful? Or do you think that maybe, like Unionism, there are many different types of people who follow the one ideology?

    Sarcasm and pig-headedness. You’re not a loyalist are you?!! Shock horror.

    P.s. That was sarcasm by the way, another characteristic that you can apply evenly to about 300,000 people in the province, as we’re all the same.

  • And your point about education was what precisely SRR?

  • Suilven

    ‘Certainly to be expected as Grammar Schools can’t fill their places with those passing the 11+ and top -up with other grades ensuring they have higher subscription and lower overheads per pupil and secondary schools tend to suffer from under-subscription and higher overheads per pupil.’

    This is true – however as long as parents perceive a difference between the quality of schools and there’s some element of parental choice allowed, ‘good’ schools will be over-subscribed and ‘bad’ schools will struggle to fill rolls – the grammar/non-grammar divide is only one part of the story IMO.

    My main reason for posting this originally was to challenge another poster’s bizarre assertion that grammars received 7.4x the funding per pupil compared to non-grammars…

  • topdeckomnibus

    Tautology Mick. Please study contributions further before stepping in and intervening later.

  • agh

    maybe if strabane and stroke city reduced their benefit claims we’d have plenty of cash to fund the schools:

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/article3210695.ece

  • Mark McGregor

    Indeed agh, it would be a good idea to work on the unemployment differential, reinforced by these figures, that Catholics are twice as likely to be unemployed as Protestants – a legacy of Unionism now firmly within their government portfolios. Lets see if the new local ministers can deal with the effects of Unionist misrule when direct rulers couldn’t. I’m not holding my breath.

  • jaffa

    Given Suilven’s point about dodgy statistics going unremarked the Donegal has the highest risk of poverty in the Republic and the horrible prods haven’t run Donegal for some time now.

    http://www.crossborder.ie/events/northwestissues.pdf

    Maybe Strabane and Derry’s problem has more to do with location.

  • observer

    that Catholics are twice as likely to be unemployed as Protestants – a legacy of Unionism now firmly within their government portfolios –

    do catholics really belive this shite? there hasnt been a unionist government for 35 years, time to find a new broken record. Maybe if catholics didnt live in the sticks theyd have more luck at finding jobs. as norman tebbit said, get on your bike

  • slug

    “it would be a good idea to work on the unemployment differential, reinforced by these figures, that Catholics are twice as likely to be unemployed as Protestants – a legacy of Unionism now firmly within their government portfolios.”

    Wouldn’t it be more meaningful to look at the likelihood of being employed? (As you will be aware employment is a much more reliable indicator than unemployment.)

  • slug

    I’m looking forward to the new regime where NI grammar schools set their own tests. Yes, they may have to pay for this. But I am sure that they will be able to.

  • Dewi

    “Maybe if catholics didnt live in the sticks theyd have more luck at finding jobs. as norman tebbit said, get on your bike”

    Do u suggest East Belfast Observer?

  • Reader

    Dewi: Do u suggest East Belfast Observer?
    Strangford, South Down and Newtownabbey leap to mind. Also Lisburn and Lurgan. But with most people actually in work, and most of the rest living warm and fed, for a lot of the unemployed there is little incentive to move 50 miles, probably still to be unemployed wherever they end up.
    But the better educated *do* move. That doesn’t really help the ones that stay behind.

  • Mick Fealty

    Mark,

    I’m not sure that that actually follows without seeing the actual data. But actually what’s remarkable is the minimal differential in cost between Grammars and other kinds of post Primary education.

    Whatever other objections that might be raised against them, it cannot be on the ground of unfair distribution of scarce resources as some have argued.

  • Mark McGregor

    It’s not an argument I’ve ever made. My objection is the current system doesn’t deliver equality of outcome ie. every child reaching their full potential.

  • jaffa

    Mick

    “I’m not sure that that actually follows without seeing the actual data”,

    If you just look at the student numbers in Suilven’s link you can see that 41% of children in post-primary education were in Grammar Schools. As the Grammars were orignally intended to cream off the top 25-27% that extra share must have come at the expense of the High Schools.

    I’d guess that there are two major elements of cost in education, wages & salaries & property costs.

    While you’d think wages and salaries are more flexible than property costs (and Suilven’s numbers exclude centrally managed capital costs) it seems pretty likely that the Grammars have considerably better capacity utilization / productivity than the High Schools they’ve deprived of 20% or so of their potential students.

    Nothing wrong with that in itself, as A grades are about defining the upper quartile and not about measuring absolute ability or even indicating the proportion of Grammar School educated children we need for our economy. I think I’ve droned on elsewhere about the appropriate way to deal with the latter.

  • Garibaldy

    I think Jaffa makes an important point. There are decades of spending behind grammar schools in capital investment, particularly in buildings and science equipment, which puts their facilities ahead of many non-grammars. Many secondary schools have been redeveloped, some with PFI. Are these costs included? Many others should be renovated and haven’t been.

  • slug

    Jaffa et al

    The increase in the proportions attending NI Grammar Schools in 1990 was a deliberate policy. The effect of this has been studied at Bristol University. The research is discussed on the last page of this pdf:

    Widening Access to Grammar Schools in NI

    The authors find this was a very beneficial reform. They say:

    “Using admininstrative data before and after the reform [widening of number of people getting into Grammar Schools in NI] we find a clear impact in NI relative to England. A 15% increase in the number of pupils enabled to attend grammar school was accompanied by shifts of similar magnitude in the numbers achieving 5 or more GCSEs at A* -C and one or more A level. This suggests a strong causal effect of expanding the more academic track on overall educational achievement.”

    As the authors carefully note, it’s not possible to go further than this from their data but it does suggest benefits of widening access to Grammar Schools, particularly in a time when we aim to send 50% of children to university.

  • Mark McGregor

    Mick

    From this

    Following the implementation of open enrolment schools were required to
    accept pupils up to their admissions number. The only exception was that
    grammar schools could refuse a place to a pupil if it was felt that the pupil
    would not benefit from the academic curriculum provided by the school. In
    fact grammar schools almost always accepted pupils up to their
    admissions numbers. This resulted in an increase in the proportion of
    pupils overall who transferred to grammar schools. Thus, 29 per cent of
    pupils transferring in 1984 went to grammar schools, but in 1994 this figure
    had increased to 35 per cent. During the 1990s the relative proportions
    transferring to grammar and secondary schools stabilised as the total
    number of pupils in each transferring cohort remained stable. If, as
    expected, the size of the cohort decreases in future years then it is likely
    that the proportion entering grammar schools will increase once more38.

    Secondary schools report two effects from open enrolment. The first effect
    was the decrease in the proportion of pupils transferring into secondary
    schools in Year 8 (from 71 per cent in 1984 to 65 per cent in 1994),
    although the effects of this varied across schools. Some secondary
    schools maintained their intake number, while others experienced high
    instability in intake numbers.

    I really can’t be bothered doing the digging for further stats but I know grammars will always meet full capacity in most cases by accepting children that don’t meet selection criteria causing other post-primaries to operate under-subscribed. As I said above this will have an impact on overheads per pupil as for example you can’t heat a school 10% less to reflect intake.

    Lies, damn lies and PQs.

  • jaffa

    “A 15% increase in the number of pupils enabled to attend grammar school was accompanied by shifts of similar magnitude in the numbers achieving 5 or more GCSEs at A* -C and one or more A level. This suggests a strong causal effect of expanding the more academic track on overall educational achievement.””

    Thanks for digging that up Slug. Mr Jesson certainly doesn’t seem a fan.

    It could just be that the increasing level of education in society generally means that the top 41% of primary school leavers reach a level of achievment that only the top 25% might have at the post-war instigation of the Grammars. Maybe more kids are “deserving of” a Grammar School education. After all, the award of A’s is given to the top 25% no matter how well or poorly they perform in the exam.

    It would be depressing if primary kids were getting dumber.

  • I appreciate that Mark. But it is yet another urban myth that’s grown up around the education debate in Northern Ireland.

    On one hand we have the threat to axe the Grammars because of the social injustice they supposedly inflict on NI kids, and on the other we have a die in the ditch defence of Grammars, whilst we have some of the highest illiteracy rates in the UK and Ireland: by some considerable way.

    The faux nature of the debate (i.e. Education as sectarian totem) ill serves the real needs of kids in NI’s schools.

  • Danny O’Connor

    Capitation funding means that the grammar schools are accepting pupils with much lower grades than used to be the case.Secondary schools with falling rolls are struggling to provide a good service.I went to a grammar school and despite my da being out of work my parents had to buy my books and pay what the school called a capital levy(whatever that was supposed to be for).The argument is that parents pay -but not just as taxpayers.I think you also need to take into consideration that social need is by and large greater in secondary schools,with many complex needs to be addressed.

  • Mark McGregor

    Mick,

    What’s the Urban Myth, I try not to deal in them? I linked a report from the Dept of Education that shows Grammar Schools accept children who don’t meet their own selection criteria and most likely children that won’t benefit in any way from being there to ensure they are fully subscribed. That impacts on other post-primary schools.

    It’s nothing to do with my argument for outcome based education, which has everything to do with your literacy and numeracy stats but merely a rebuttal to accepting the cost per head figures on face value.

    As for a sectarian totem, I’ve always believed in secular Education but not this integrated mumbo-jumbo.

  • jaffa

    Do you have a preference yourself Mick?

    Or do you just ask the questions?

    Re your market observations over the last couple of days, looking at Suilven’s costs of £3600 per Grammar student and the £1900 or so capital costs charged by Campbell and Inst we seem to be spending the £5,500 that I think I’ve read is the UK average spend per pupil.

    The economist carried a piece recently on GEMS last year, a firm which provides english speaking education to ex-pats and which made proposals to / plans to (not sure of the latest status) to open schools in UK charing the UK average of £5500.

    http://www.gemseducation.com/

    Parents might forgive the abolition of the 11+ if they were given vouchers for £5500 per kid to spend where they liked (even if some of the places they fancied used entrance interviews or SAT’s). I’ve said before that I don’t think in our circumstance it would make a real difference in financing to schools but it might get parents more involved and make the school more motivated to sell or develop its services – including clever Grammars offering vocational schools.

  • Mick Fealty

    jaffa,

    In the absence of concrete policy I am much more interested in probing the problem with questions rather than clipping to premature conclusions.

    I’ve quoted Wittgenstein in similar contexts before (that seemingly endless Derry/Londonderry thread if I recall correctly):

    “Don’t get involved in partial problems, but always take flight to where there is a free view over the whole single great problem, even if this view is still not a clear one.”

    Sorry Mark, cross purposes. I not mean to suggest you were the one making the ‘urban myth’ argument about Grammars eating up more than their fair share of scarce state resources. I think it was kensei in a earlier thread.

  • Rubicon

    The correction to the higher costs per pupil alleged in an earlier thread is an important one – despite the valid caveats that others make about enrollment rates. A 7 fold higher spend per pupil attending grammars (as alleged) would have evidence of gross unfairness attached to the selective system.

    Though these figures now suggest little disparity in per pupil spend it does not follow that the selective system is fair. The Gallagher and Smith research that Mark referred to earlier points to improving performance in grammars occurring at the same times as selection criteria are lowered. Surely this challenges the utility of the 11+ in predicting future academic ability?

  • joeCanuck

    Strabane and Derry

    That was a nasty cheap remark, agh.
    You’re close to the mark, Jaffa, re location. At partition, both Strabane and Derry lost 50% of their economic hinterland and they have never recovered from that, Strabane especially.
    Strabane always had the highest unemployment rate in the UK, twice that of Belfast typically. That had nothing to do with an unwillingness to work. If it hadn’t been for emigration (by fathers even, who returned for holidays), the rate would have been even worse.

    Walk in someone’s shoes and all that.

  • Reader

    Rubicon: The Gallagher and Smith research that Mark referred to earlier points to improving performance in grammars occurring at the same times as selection criteria are lowered. Surely this challenges the utility of the 11+ in predicting future academic ability?
    Or points out the overall reduction of standards in the examination system?
    Or just points out that giving a few more pupils access to an academic environment improves overall results? But just because overall results improve when Striver and Plodder join Whizzkid and Brainbox at the Grammar, doesn’t mean that Waster, Dope, Thug, Drifter, Spanners and Sparks should all go there too.

  • joeCanuck

    Striver and Plodder

    There is an interesting article in the current issue of “Scientific American Mind” that says that 30 years of study shows that effort does count for more than innate ability. Apparently the whizzkids have difficulty accepting failure and give up whereas plodder moves on. Try and try again apparently does work. Thomas Edison, no academic genius, among others, proved that.

  • kensei

    “I think it was kensei in a earlier thread.”

    I would have imagined it would have been higher for Grammar. I certainly didn’t claim it was 7.4x higher anyway. But I’m still not entirely wrong :). What I said was that this was about how to allocate scare resource. Good teachers and the best facilities are as much a scare resource as state cash :).

    As for “partial problems”, I don’t think this gives the whole picture. I’d like to know where the money is allocated and are the figures skewed, as Mark suggests, by under subscription. And I’d like to know what the total spend for Grammars are when money from other resources are included.

    Oh, and I’d also like to know the fate of C and D students in the grammar system versus the secondary one. Not sure where you’d get all that, or even if it exists.

  • frustrated democrat

    The main thrust of all of this is that all are equal when obviously they are not. If we assume for example that average inelligence is 100 or thereabout then there must be an equal numbr above and below. It matters not what teachers do there will always be pupils who are more academic that others and puils who can achieve more in non academic subjects than others. This is also true in sports arts or whatever walk of life we chose to look at.

    We need to find a method of streaming pupils towards whatever form of education is best suited to their needs and to providing for those needs, one size fits all will not achieve this for anyone so discriminates against all. It may be a technical or vocational education is more expensive than a purely academic one but that should not be viewed as discrimination only proving to meet needs.

    So whether at 11 or 14 selection is needed, the only arguement is how the selection is carried out to achieve the streaming.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    For sure it’s a partial one. That’s why I am happier for people to contend over the detail that tearing things up over which overall system is best when not all the data is at hand or indeed all the consequences for possible policy action have been ‘scoped’.

    I’ll see if we can’t get some answers to your questions.

  • joeCanuck

    how the selection is carried out

    I would expect (well, hope) that at age 14 it would be self selection.
    At age 11, parents decide. Lots of parents are self delusional when it comes to assessing their child’s ability, or, indeed, desires.

  • Rubicon

    Reader – your characterisation of children as “Waster, Dope, Thug, Drifter, Spanners and Sparks” I find abhorrent. The system change is focussing on 10 year old children and your pejorative description asserts the worst characteristics of adolescents and adults on the innocent who still have a life to live and opportunities to choose.

    To get back to my original point – if “only A’s entry to grammar schools” have delivered worse results than extending entry to B’s and C’s then I suggest your support for the 11+ enabling the academically talented is challenged. You may argue that standards have declined but you only present this by assertion – do you have evidence?

    Once you’ve considered that evidence – can you also answer why there is no statistical correlation between entry qualifications to university and the class of degree the students are awarded?

  • Suilven

    Rubicon,

    ‘if “only A’s entry to grammar schools” have delivered worse results than extending entry to B’s and C’s then I suggest your support for the 11+ enabling the academically talented is challenged.’

    You refer, I presume, to the ‘open enrolment’ cohort – a 15 percentage point increase in grammar enrolment followed by a 12 percentage point increase in 5 or more GCSEs passed. I’d argue this was more to do with the massive change in sex distribution of grammar enrolment – in a short period, things passed from substantially more boys than girls attended grammar school to the exact opposite. This, after all, was what ‘open enrolment’ was all about.

    ftp://repec.iza.org/RePEc/Discussionpaper/dp2596.pdf

    Some further points from a multivariate analysis in Gallagher and Smith:

    – There are marked differentials by individual/family background in GCSE performance on average; girls do better than boys, pupils not entitled to free school meals do better than pupils entitled to free school meals, pupils with
    fathers in professional occupations tend to perform better, and pupils with Transfer Test grades A and B perform better as a group than those who got grades C or D or who were not entered

    – Pupils at grammar schools had higher average GCSE scores than those at nongrammar
    schools regardless of individual/family background

    – Grammar school attendance has a major positive effect on GCSE scores which is independent of, and additional to, the influence of the other explanatory variables included in the model

    – The largest observed influences on GCSE performance were associated with Transfer Test grade and grammar school attendance. The impact of other variables such as father’s occupation, and entitlement to free school meals was much less although it was also statistically significant.

    Finally:

    ‘can you also answer why there is no statistical correlation between entry qualifications to university and the class of degree the students are awarded?’

    Erm – it appears there is:

    “In all cases the plots showed a strong relationship between A-level points and HE achievement. The steepness of the slope increased with the move to higher levels of achievement. The relationship with the proportion obtaining ‘firsts’ was non-linear with a sharp rise above 26 points. Bekhradnia and Thompson (2002), also of HEFC, had previously addressed the issue in a different way. They tested out Wiliam’s coin-tossing assertion by calculating the predictive power of A-levels in terms of the chance of picking the graduate with the better degree. They found that of two randomly-selected graduates from the same institution the one who had entered on 24 points was 2.3 times more likely to have the better degree than the one who had entered on 18 points. The probability ratio varied linearly with the extent of the difference in A-level point scores. The percentage dropping out was also linearly related to A-level scores.

    The weight of the evidence from HEFCE has been sufficient to convince the Higher Education Review (2004) that “A-level results remains the best single indicator of success at undergraduate level, and continue to be central to the admissions process.”

    http://www.buck.ac.uk/education/research/ceer/pdfs/univadmiss.pdf

  • Insider

    Mick

    Your initial point to this thread was that funding per pupil for the secondary sector is more than the Grammar sector. However, if you look at the parliamentary answer this excludes capital funding, which frankly covers well over 90% of expenditure, and capital funding for the Grammar sector is several times higher than the secondary sector. The answer you quote is only for revenue figures i.e. heat, light etc. – hardly a representative analysis!! If you take the overall TOTAL investment figures (i.e. including capital spending) then the spending per pupil for the Grammar sector is 7.4 times higher than the spending per pupil in the secondary sector.

  • Mick Fealty

    Insider,

    I’m all for new information, and that would certainly be well worth seeing. Can we see the figures, and periods they involve?

  • Suilven

    ‘If you take the overall TOTAL investment figures (i.e. including capital spending) then the spending per pupil for the Grammar sector is 7.4 times higher than the spending per pupil in the secondary sector.’

    Another bizarre assertion, Insider. The second parliamentary answer on the link gives the amounts of recurrent and capital funding doled out in 05/06 – capital funding is less than 7% of the total. Want to have a rethink?

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/vo051010/text/51010w67.htm

  • Insider

    Suilven

    The Revenue figures enclosed in your suggested Link include Salaries, and these of course make up the vast majority of revenue spend, as is typical in any business. 86% of the revenue costs of my business are Salaries – I bet there are plenty of businessmen who wish they didn’t have to run the weekly and/or monthly Payroll and still keep their businesses going!: Unfortunately the world doesn’t work like that. If you look at the real Capital spend at the Secondary education level, then the investment in the Grammar sector is much higher.

    In any case, the link you provide seems to show total figures for the Educ&Lib;Boards – it doesn’t seem to differentiate between the Grammar and ‘secondary modern’ sectors – or have I missed this?

    BTW: I’ve posted answers to your other points that you made, on the ‘11+ into the Void’ thread.

  • Suilven

    Insider,

    You keep moving the goalposts each time they start collapsing on your head…

    Quote from your original post (on a separate thread):

    ‘Remember, there is 7.4 times more spent on the Grammar School sector in N.I., than the secondary sector (i.e. on a per pupil basis).’

    No mention of capital there – and as the link at the top of the thread shows, quite wrong.

    Next you assert:

    ‘if you look at the parliamentary answer this excludes capital funding, which frankly covers well over 90% of expenditure’

    Again, as the link I posted above shows, quite wrong. The vast majority of education costs are recurrent.

    Your argument is now reduced to claiming that grammars receive more in capital funding. I’ve been unable to find any central source of DENI/ELB capital projects, but the partial sources I have found appear to be pretty representative of the institutional spectrum – primary/grammar/non-grammar, controlled/voluntary/maintained. Given your previous inaccuracies, I’m inclined to disregard your claims until you, as Mick suggests, provide some evidence otherwise.

  • Reader

    Rubicon: Reader – your characterisation of children as “Waster, Dope, Thug, Drifter, Spanners and Sparks” I find abhorrent. The system change is focussing on 10 year old children and your pejorative description asserts the worst characteristics of adolescents and adults on the innocent who still have a life to live and opportunities to choose.
    Opportunities continue to present themselves throughout your life. People have got degrees in prison, and good A-level grades in secondary schools and 6th form colleges. My wife got a 1st class degree 25 years after first leaving full time education. By the way – I have genuine respect for the obvious skills and abilities of Spanners and Sparks, and there is some hope for most of the rest…
    So what actually happens is that some people put themselves on the scrapheap, and just as sad in a different way, some very worthwhile human beings have nothing to offer to the skilled or educated workforce. Admit both. Then recognise that putting some of them into classes on calculus or Russian isn’t going to help anyone.
    Rubicon: To get back to my original point – if “only A’s entry to grammar schools” have delivered worse results than extending entry to B’s and C’s then I suggest your support for the 11+ enabling the academically talented is challenged. You may argue that standards have declined but you only present this by assertion – do you have evidence?
    Since comprehensives in England are getting better results year on year while taking on everyone, then why does the fact the Grammars here also do better year on year require a *different* explanation? But just for starters, maths test papers now are a complete joke.