‘New selective schools will probably have a narrower ability range, perhaps more like top 10%’
Just one of the points emerging from meetings between representatives of the Grammar Schools Heads Association (GSHA), the ‘new selective education DfE team’, the Education Secretary Justine Greening and schools minister Nick Gibb. These numerous meeting were to discuss ‘the next steps on “Lifting the ban on Grammar Schools”’.
This, and other key points from the meeting, are in the GHSA Spring 2017 newsletter. One surprising comment says those who are ‘philosophically opposed to selection’ argue it damages other children’s education but offer little or no supporting evidence.
This is an astonishing statement. Evidence showing how selection impacts negatively on other children is extensive*. Even PISA, whose test results are highly regarded by schools ministers, said back in 2010:
‘…the earlier in the student’s career the selection occurs, the greater the impact of socio-economic background on learning outcomes.’
The DfE appears to be following Nelson’s example by turning a blind eye. This is unacceptable, especially by a Government which claims to have evidence-based policies.
The newsletter shows the DfE was already discussing plans to increase selection while the consultation was still ongoing. This suggests the DfE had already decided to press on with plans whatever the outcome.
In any case, the consultation results will be unreliable. It was biased, attracted objections by the UK Statistics Watchdog and a belated correction had to be published. If that weren’t bad enough, respondents could submit multiple, fictitious responses.
‘There is a move away from focusing on social mobility to social reform,’ says the GHSA. This is part of plans by the Prime Minister supposedly to help those who are ‘just about managing’. She’s set up a Social Reform Cabinet Committee ‘to make Britain better for everyone, not just the privileged few’.
It’s unclear how increasing selection in English schools will help the rest of the UK. But setting up a cabinet committee and a DfE selective education team will do so, apparently.
Neither is it clear how sending one-in-ten children to super-selective schools will help all children. It won’t. The proposed national selection test will reject 90% of children.
That figure is worth repeating: nine-out-of-ten eleven year olds near super-selective grammars would be rubber-stamped as failing. This will hardly ‘make life easier for the majority of people in this country who just about manage’. That’s because the majority of parents, JAMs or not, in these areas would face their eleven-year-olds being labelled as ‘not so bright’.
The answer to helping all children is not siphoning off a tiny proportion to attend ‘elite’ schools. It’s to follow the advice** of PISA after the publication of the 2015 results:
Countries should ‘strive to have excellent schools in every neighbourhood and make them accessible to all students’.
That means ALL pupils, not just one-in-ten.
** p233, Volume II, PISA 2015 Results, ‘What PISA 2015 results imply for policy’, downloadable here.