They acknowledge that "the GCSE results of opted-out schools improved faster during the first half of the 1990s" but account for this on the grounds that they were better placed "to covertly select pupils by ability".
This cannot be a valid explanation. Any GM pupil taking a GCSE examination "during the first half of the 90s" must of necessity have been admitted to that school prior to its becoming grant-maintained.
An even more surprising assertion is that the GM schools gave "poor value for money". This is concluded in spite of the acknowledgement that there was a faster improvement in GCSE results and that "contrary to common belief, GM schools received less funding per pupil than other LEA secondaries in three of the five authorities studied".
I would agree that the schools which opted out were not all driven by "a burning desire to improve pupils' performance". Some of them were already very high-performing schools. We were, however, united in a desire to give a better quality of education to our pupils. This is not to be measured solely by examination results.
For my own school, situated in one of the most deprived areas of the UK "quality" meant at first roofs that did not leak, wiring that was safe and paint on undecorated walls. It equally meant a book each in class and books to take home, enriched teaching in every curriculum area and opportunities to experience the world beyond Small Heath.
Small Heath school