The first partially selective schools to be set up were bilateral schools – halfway houses between grammar and secondary modern schools.
The schools have both grammar and non-selective streams. Currently, only six remain.
After the national grammar school system was largely dismantled, a number of schools introduced partial selection in the late 1980s and into the 1990s – and some say they did this to ensure that they had a more comprehensive intake as they were in heavily selective areas.
However, not all of the remaining partially selective schools are in local authority areas with grammar schools. There are, for example, seven partially selective schools in Hertfordshire, which has no grammar schools. But some of these schools have reduced the number of pupils they take via the ability test because of rulings by the schools adjudicator.
TES enquiries suggest that throughout England there are currently 38 partially selective schools, with levels of selection varying between 10 per cent and 45 per cent. More than half select solely on general academic ability, and a dozen admit students on their aptitude in specialist subjects and by academic test. There are a further five specialist schools still allowed to select more than a tenth of their intake on aptitude in particular subject areas, as their arrangements were in place before 1998 when Labour introduced a 10 per cent cap.
Parmiter’s School, in Garston, Hertfordshire, falls into the middle category. It used to take half of its intake through an ability test more than two decades ago, though this has now been reduced to 25 per cent. The school also takes 10 per cent on musical aptitude.
It is selection by aptitude that is becoming increasingly popular with schools and some – like Nick Daymond, head of Parmiter’s – say that the 10 per cent cap should be lifted. “More partial selection by aptitude could help to increase the numbers of students from the state sector studying subjects such as modern languages and music to A level and beyond,” Daymond says.
“The economics of running subjects with very small uptakes are now prohibitive for most state schools because of the real-terms decreases we have seen in sixth-form funding. This means that certain subjects could become the preserve of the private system, which would be a great shame.”