Does selection work in education?
In the ‘i’ published on the 13 December 2016, Richard Vaughan wrote an article ‘Super-selective schools ‘would transform state education’. The article was reporting on Lord O’Shaughnessy’s call for the introduction of a network of highly selective comprehensive schools to cater for the most ‘cognitively able’children.
In effect this would create a stream of grammar schools, who would be able to select their attendees/pupils. Grammar schools have been in existence since the 16th Century, but the modern grammar school as we know it, dates back to the Education Act of 1944, which made secondary education after the age of 14 free.
At this time secondary education was remodelled into two basic types:-
- Grammar schools which were academically focussed, and would naturally lead to higher education
- Secondary modern schools, which would generate qualified children for trades.
During the 1950s and 1960s various groups and politicians felt that the selective system reinforced class division and privilege. Because of this in 1965, the government ordered local education authorities to start phasing out grammar schools and secondary moderns to be replaced with a comprehensive system.
Selective Education, by demand????
The current Prime Minister Theresa May, who has made the expansion of grammar schools one of her main priorities (and by default this means also the faith based schools). In previous governments, there was a look warm reception to selection being reintroduced by the Conservative platform, but it was in their current manifesto so of course it must be done, even if it it is ill-conceived. Lord O’Shaughnessy has voiced a note of caution to the proposed changes, in that ‘any move by the Government to allow all secondary schools in an area to apply to become selective, would be detrimental to the educational development of many…’
In November 2015, Andrew McCulloch wrote a very informative paper on whether ability-based selection has to increase inequalities in education – in summary he says
…If we want to understand how a selective education system might work without increasing educational inequalities, we need a greater understanding of how the different parts of education systems work together to influence overall levels of attainment…
My take on this and other reports is that selection into special schools doesn’t need to occur. What we need is more resources into all of our schools, not the dilution of what we currently have. Teachers, as I have written about before, need resources (these are not just the things like buildings that are a fit for purpose, equipment that is up to date, books etc; but also more time to plan and to support children at all levels). I cannot and do not see that introducing a new ‘grammar stream system’ in ‘special schools’ who will of course get all the new resources, will help the rest of the children not attending those schools!
- Grammar schools: What are they and why are they controversial?
- Selecting and Group Students – OECD
- Some schools select the pupils that they want to teach
- Does ability-based selection have to increase inequalities in education?
Questions to think about when you have read this article and some of the others I noted:
- Why do some schools want to choose the children that they are willing to teach?
- Which types of schools are able to choose students?
- Which types of schools are not able to choose students?
- Which types of pupils are rejected by some schools?
- What tricks can schools use to make sure they only have to take students that they want
- Should schools be allowed to choose students?
- Should parents be allowed to choose schools?