The lessons from PISA;end selection, give teachers more freedom and don't waste money on school fees

Fiona Millar's picture
The new PISA data is out, based on tests taken by half a million 15 year olds in 70 countries. Its key findings are here. What does it tell us?

  • NOT that the performance of English pupils got worse, but that we were outperformed by more nations than last time this data was collected in 2006.

  • That girls do better than boys

  • That the best school systems were the most equitable and non selective. “Schools that select students based on ability early show the greatest differences in performance by socio-economic background”, states the report

  • That high performing school systems tend to prioritise teacher pay over smaller class sizes, allow schools to design curricula and establish assessment policies but don’t necessarily allow competition

  • That local autonomy, effective accountability and good student teacher relationships seem to produce better results

  • That state and private schools achieve similar results, after taking account of students home background

  • That Sweden, home of the free school, did even worse than us.

There are lessons here; we should end all selection, which lies at the heart of our unequal school system; teachers should be well resourced and free of the sort of centralised prescription which tells them what and how to teach; the pressure of the league tables and testing may be counter-productive.

Oh and if you are well educated, supportive, affluent parents with children in the independent sector, you are wasting your money.  According to PISA your children will do just as well in their local state school, where the teaching is probably better.

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Nigel Ford's picture
Tue, 07/12/2010 - 16:26

Last para - speaking from personal experience too many "supportive" parents take a hands off approach once the child is in the independent sector thinking they're onto a winner.

I took exactly the opposite approach from my parents where my own kids were concerned.

N Hussain's picture
Tue, 07/12/2010 - 16:53

Fully agree, but can't see it happening. Recent adjudictation said that selection not fair but not illegal so can't uphold compalint!

Confuses me because if something breaks the admissions code then surely it is illegal? Have a look......

LEA is Buck and case was Oct 2010 ADA1766

Fiona Millar's picture
Tue, 07/12/2010 - 21:45

Unfortunately selection doesn't 'break' the Admissions Code.When the Code was introduced it preserved the right of existing grammar schools to continue use of the 11 plus, although no new schools are allowed to introduce it. Getting rid of it involves a long and costly balloting process, a fudge introduced by the last Labour government. Some of the balloting regulations give priority to feeder schools, which exclude many local parents. It is a complete mess and we need a government with the courage to legislate from on high ( and removing existing selection does require primary legislation) .

Francis Gilbert's picture
Tue, 07/12/2010 - 19:25

This is a very interesting point. Perhaps we need to start pursuing selective schools in the courts to stop the rot?

Fiona Millar's picture
Tue, 07/12/2010 - 21:54

For info there is a move by some Bucks governors and parents to challenge the use of selection in the courts, on equality grounds. Most grammar schools have far fewer pupils on FSM and from minority ethnic backgrounds than their local communities. I am sure the Bucks campaigners would like to hear from any more parents interested in challenges to the current use of the 11 plus.

Pascale Scheurer's picture
Wed, 08/12/2010 - 01:46

Does this include selection by faith and gender? Because those must be even more obviously illegal. Has any parent tried this route of challenge?

If all children were able to go to all schools, it would massively increase parental choice. I feel for my friends who are atheist parents of girl-boy twins.

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 08/12/2010 - 08:29

I am afraid single sex schools and faith schools are exempt from the equalities legislation. Here is a column I wrote several years ago for the Guardian on the faith schools exemption.
There was a successful legal challenge recently to the way the Jewish Free School was using it's faith criteria.Maybe it is time someone did try another challenge , in an area where there are a disproportionate number of faith schools that effectively discriminate against the wider community ( and reduce parental choice). I know a lawyer who is interested in pursuing this.

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