Saturday 14 January 2012

Debate about selection runs and runs

  • The passage below is clipped from a Comment is Free thread at 
    the Guardian written by someone calling him/herself mwhite. It 
    comes from this thread started off by Roy Greenslade 

    which was in turn a response to this thread, started off by Melissa 

    "Grammar schools shouldn’t be reinstated because the myths peddled by the advocates of selection have been undermined by mountains of research going back decades. In fact, in 2008, even the right-wing think-tank Policy Exchange advocated ending selection on ability and aptitude.
    The first myth is that selection raises standards. Atkinson, Gregg and McConnell (2006) found that selection resulted in gains for the few and disadvantage for the majority. PISA studies in 2000 and 2003 showed that overall standards were lower in countries with selective school systems than in those with fully comprehensive systems. A 2007 PISA study of 57 countries concluded that early differentiation of students by school is associated with wider than average socio-economic disparities and not with better results overall. Jesson (2006) found that educational attainment is lower in local authorities (such as Kent) which implement academic selection than in those which don’t – which is why average A-level scores are higher in Hampshire, which doesn’t select at 11, than in Kent, whose 32 grammar schools do. Finally, Finland, which consistently appears at the top of PISA rankings, has a fully comprehensive education system with no selection and very little private education.
    The second fiction is that academic standards in state schools have deteriorated since comprehensive schools began to replace grammar schools nearly 50 years ago. A report for MPs by the House of Commons Library in June 2009 showed that, in 1961, 34% of Oxford students and 27% of Cambridge students had attended a state secondary school. In 2010, 50% of Oxbridge students came from state schools. Also, students from state schools leave university with better degrees than those from private schools.
    It is also a myth that grammar schools increased social mobility in the post-war era. A paper by the LSE (2005) for the Sutton Trust is often quoted in support of this argument, but this paper did not attribute the slowdown in social mobility to ending selective education. What it did show was that the most socially mobile countries are the comprehensive Scandinavian countries. Furthermore, the claim that there was a golden age when grammar schools enabled significant numbers of working class pupils to go on to higher education was refuted by the Crowther Report in 1959, which showed that fewer than 10% of the poorest quarter of the population went to grammar school. Of these, over 40% left with no O levels.
    Finally, advocates of grammar schools use Northern Ireland as evidence that selective education produces better results. Yet a DfES comparison (2006) showed that the percentage of people of working age with no qualifications in Northern Ireland was 23% compared to 13% in comprehensive Scotland. Similarly the percentage of people with qualifications levels 4-6 (degree level) in Northern Ireland was 18.1% and in Scotland 25%. Finally, an ESRC study in 2006 comparing England with Scotland showed higher participation in higher education in Scotland and that working-class Scots “outperformed their English peers”.
    In other words, the existence of grammar schools means that the education of the majority is being sacrificed to the interests of a privileged minority. This is a fact and no amount of bluff, bluster or obfuscation can change it."