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In Englandmarker, a partially selective school is one of a few dozen state-funded secondary schools that select a proportion of their intake by ability or aptitude, permitted as a continuation of arrangements that existed prior to 1997.Though treated together by current legislation, they are of two types: bilateral schools in remnants of the Tripartite System, and former grant-maintained schools that introduced partial selection in the 1990s.While technically classified as comprehensive schools, they occupy a middle ground between grammar schools and true comprehensives, and many of the arguments for and against grammar schools also apply to these schools.Although there are relatively few schools of this type, several of them score very highly in national performance tables, and are among the most over-subscribed schools in the country.

There are no partially selective schools in Scotland and Wales, which have wholly comprehensive systems, while Northern Ireland retains a grammar system.


Partially selective schools are of two types:

  • A bilateral school contains both grammar and non-selective streams, with the two groups of students taught separately. Bilateral schools were originally part of the Tripartite System in more sparsely populated areas unable to support separate schools. Most of those existing today were established in the 1970s in a few areas retaining the Tripartite System.

  • Partial selection was introduced in some grant-maintained schools during the final years of the Conservative government led by John Major. Grant-maintained status was introduced by the Education Reform Act 1988, and gave such schools control over their own admissions. Circular 6/93 permitted these schools to select up to 10% of their intake on the basis of ability or aptitude in music, art, drama or sport. Circular 6/96 permitted more selection. By 1997, over 40 schools were selecting up to 50% of pupils.

In 1997 a Labour government was elected, with a policy of abolishing partial selection.David Blunkett, then Secretary of State for Education and Employment, said in December 1997:

However, the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 permitted selection of up to 10% by aptitude for certain subjects for which a school is a specialist college (section 102), and also permitted the retention of partial selection that existed prior to the 1997 entry, provided that the proportion selected was no higher than that in 1997 (section 100).The 1998 Act also created schools adjudicators, empowered to rule on objections to school admission arrangements, including partial selection. This mechanism has steadily reduced both the number of schools using selection and the proportion of partial selection at the remaining schools.

These schools often also give preference to siblings of current pupils, filling the rest of their places using distance and/or faith criteria.The sibling criterion is particularly controversial, as in combination with selection it often severely limits the number of local children admitted.In response to these concerns, the initial draft of a revised schools admissions code proposed to ban sibling criteria in schools that selected more than 10% on their intake.After many protests, the admissions code as published in February 2007 protected siblings of current students, and permitted schools to give priority to siblings provided that "their admission arrangements as a whole do not exclude families living nearer the school."This phrasing was removed in the revised Code published in January 2009.

A late amendment to the Education and Inspections Act 2006 amended the 1998 Act to require that the proportion selected be no higher than at any time since 1997.This forced four Hertfordshire schools to lower their proportion of academic selection to 25%.

Partial selection today

The following bilateral schools continue to operate in surviving fully selective areas:
LEA School Gender
Bexleymarker Erith Schoolmarker Mixed
Lincolnshiremarker King Edward VI Humanities Collegemarker Mixed
Medway The Howard Schoolmarker Boys
Readingmarker Reading Girls' School Girls
Southend-on-Seamarker St Bernard's High School for Girlsmarker Girls
St Thomas More High School for Boysmarker Boys
Torbaymarker Westlands Schoolmarker Mixed
Warwickshiremarker Ashlawn Schoolmarker Mixed

To be admitted to the selective stream, applicants must achieve the qualifying standard in an eleven plus exam, typically shared with local grammar schools.In practice, some of these schools do not fill their allocation of selective places due to competition from the neighbouring grammar schools.Unlike grammar schools, they are required to fill any remaining places with non-selective applicants.

The following schools retain partial selection introduced between 1993 and 1997:
LEA School Gender Selective proportion of intake Siblings
Barnetmarker Mill Hill County High Schoolmarker Mixed 10% technology, 10% music, 5% dance yes
Buckinghamshire Waddesdon Church of England Schoolmarker Mixed 15% music (usually unused) yes
Croydonmarker The Archbishop Lanfranc Schoolmarker Mixed 15% general ability yes
Edenham High School Mixed 15% general ability yes
Riddlesdown High Schoolmarker Mixed 15% general ability no
Shirley High Schoolmarker Mixed 15% general ability yes
Dorsetmarker Budmouth Technology Collegemarker Mixed 12% general ability yes
Dudleymarker Old Swinford Hospitalmarker Boys 27% general ability yes
Essex The King John Schoolmarker Mixed 15% general ability yes
Hertfordshiremarker Dame Alice Owen's Schoolmarker Mixed 32.5% general ability, 5% music yes
Parmiter's Schoolmarker Mixed 25% general ability, 10% music yes
Queens' Schoolmarker Mixed 35% general ability, 5% music, 5% sport yes
Rickmansworth Schoolmarker Mixed 25% general ability, 10% music yes
St. Clement Danes Schoolmarker Mixed 10% general ability, 10% music yes
Watford Grammar School for Boysmarker Boys 25% general ability, 10% music yes
Watford Grammar School for Girlsmarker Girls 25% general ability, 10% music yes
Kentmarker Archbishop's Schoolmarker Mixed 15% general ability yes
Chaucer Technology Schoolmarker Mixed 15% general ability or technology yes
Homewood Schoolmarker Mixed 20% general ability, 1% music yes
Westlands School Mixed 10% maths yes
Lambethmarker Archbishop Tenison's Schoolmarker Boys weighted banding yes
London Nautical Schoolmarker Boys nautical or sport yes
Lancashiremarker Ripley St. Thomas Church of England High Schoolmarker Mixed 15% language no
Liverpoolmarker King David High Schoolmarker Mixed 17% music no
St. Hilda's C of E High Schoolmarker Girls 15% general ability no
St. Margaret's C of E High Schoolmarker Boys 15% general ability no
Nottinghammarker Nottingham Bluecoat Schoolmarker Mixed 10% maths and science yes
Peterboroughmarker The Kings Schoolmarker Mixed 10% general ability, 2.5% music yes
Poolemarker Poole High Schoolmarker Mixed 10% general ability yes
Southend-on-Seamarker Cecil Jones Collegemarker Mixed 10% general ability yes
Shoeburyness High Schoolmarker Mixed 10% general ability yes
Surreymarker Glyn Technology Schoolmarker Boys 15% general ability yes
The Winston Churchill Schoolmarker Mixed 9% general ability, 5% music yes
Suttonmarker Greenshaw High Schoolmarker Mixed 25% general ability yes
Wandsworthmarker Burntwood Schoolmarker Girls 25% general ability some
Chestnut Grove Schoolmarker Mixed 20% art and design, 20% languages some
Ernest Bevin Collegemarker Boys ⅓ general ability some
Graveney Schoolmarker Mixed 25% general ability some

All of these schools are over-subscribed. All except Old Swinford Hospital, Archbishop Tenison's School and the London Nautical School select the highest scoring applicants under each criterion.

See also

References and notes

  1. Schools that can select pupils, ParentsCentre, Department for Children, Schools and Families.
  2. School Admissions Glossary, Lincolnshire County Council.
  3. Schools (Selection), House of Commons Hansard Debates, UK Parliament, 11 Jun 1996.
  4. Debate on School Standards and Framework Bill, Clause 90, House of Commons Standing Committee A, Tuesday 24 February 1998.
  5. School Standards and Framework Act 1998, HMSO.
  6. Admission by selection, Select Committee on Education and Skills Fourth Report (School admissions), UK Parliament, 14 July 2004.
  7. School Admissions Code, Department for Education and Skills, February 2007.
  8. School Admissions Code, Department for Education and Skills, January 2009.
  9. House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 8 Feb 2006 (pt 7), UK Parliament.
  10. The Wandsworth partially selective schools (see above) give priority to siblings only where the sibling was admitted prior to September 2008 or lived close enough to the school to be admitted under the distance criterion.

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