There are currently 163 grammar schools in England with a total of around 176,000 pupils. Under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 no new maintained grammar schools can be opened, and existing schools cannot introduce new selection by ability. However, there has been a very gradual but steady increase in the number and proportion of pupils at existing grammar schools over the past 30 years. This is because the average size of grammars has increased.

GCSE attainment at grammars is, on average, much better than in non-selective schools (the attainment gap is greatest with non-selective schools in highly selective areas). However, pupil intakes differ between grammars and non-selective schools, both in terms of background characteristics and prior attainment. This means headline results may not give us the most meaningful comparisons.

Pupils at grammar schools are much less likely to have special education needs or be eligible for free school meals compared to pupils in non-selective schools. Grammar schools have a higher proportion of non-white pupils.

The number of state grammar schools peaked at almost 1,300 in the mid-1960s when around one-quarter of all pupils in state secondaries attended grammars. Their number started falling soon after. The fastest period of decline was the 1970s; between 1971 and 1978 650 grammar schools closed.

This note gives a brief summary of statistics on grammar schools; state schools that select all or virtually all of their pupils by ability. It includes trends in the number and share of pupils at grammar schools since the late 1940s and a snapshot of current grammars. Most of the data are for England only.

The definition of grammar schools used here is state-funded selective secondary schools. It does not include any data on partially selective schools.

For a list of current grammar schools in England by location please see the excel file attached. Readers may also be interested in the policy Library briefing paper Grammar schools in England.


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