Inclusion is the key to successful school systems, says OECD

Janet Downs's picture
What affects pupil outcomes?    The major paper, “Education at a Glance 2011”, from the globally-respected Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), found that the factors which encouraged high pupil achievement included “positive teacher-student relations, high expectations for students’ success, and a safe school environment.”  OECD is clear: these qualities are “more easily achieved in inclusive school systems.”

What, then, is an inclusive school system?  It is one where resources and experienced teachers tend to be evenly distributed among schools.  But it is more than that – an inclusive school system does not segregate pupils.  It is worth quoting OECD at length:

“In some school systems, inequality is entrenched through the mechanisms in which students are allocated to schools, including tracks that channel students into different schools based on their prior achievement or ability, private schools, and special programmes in the public sector.”

So counties that retain selection are not promoting an inclusive school system and “inequality is entrenched”.

“Within schools, students can be selected into other programmes… These processes tend to separate low- and high-performing students into different schools or different classes within schools.”   OECD describes this separation as “vertically segregated”.

“Horizontally segregated” school systems are those where inequality is widened by a “high level of residential segregation, especially in large cities”.  In horizontally segregated school systems, pupils are separated into different schools by their different socio-economic backgrounds.

The OECD described in 2010 how all pupils (advantaged and disadvantaged) in schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils tend to have weaker results than all (advantaged and disadvantaged) pupils in schools with a high proportion of advantaged
students.  This was confirmed by the Education Endowment Fund  in June this year.  It is clear, then, that a major way to raise the performance of a school system as a whole is to encourage inclusion.   OECD describes how this might be achieved:

“One of the best ways to achieve equality and equity [in school systems] is to adopt policies that increase vertical and horizontal
inclusion.”   OECD recognises that “increasing vertical inclusion is often difficult to achieve politically, as it can be challenging
to convince parents of high-performing students that their children will fare equally well or better in mixed-ability schools”.  Horizontal inclusion can also be difficult to combat because of the divide between better-off areas and those with high
levels of disadvantage.   OECD recommends that horizontal inclusion could be increased “through a compensatory allocation
of resources to schools that have a disproportionate number of students from disadvantage families”.   OECD says that policies designed to increase choice may encourage more horizontal inclusion, but warns that this might not happen if disadvantaged parents find they are less able to exercise the choice.
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JimC's picture
Fri, 16/09/2011 - 05:22

One of the problems I have with this website is that it isn't as much an argument for a better state schools as it is an argument for the status quo.

The problem with inclusion and state schools is that inclusion has been used as justification for keeping badly behaved and disruptive students in mainstream education. It is very difficult to create a positive, safe learning environment when 10% of the school population can't or won't behave.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 16/09/2011 - 08:42

JimC - you've misrepresented the argument. Nowhere in the OECD report or in my analysis of it is there any mention of using inclusion as an excuse not to deal with badly-behaved pupils. The OECD made it quite clear: their global research found that positive pupil-teacher relationships, high expectations for all pupils and a safe learning environment were best promoted in a fully inclusive system. OECD has made this point before most notably in its press release which accompanied the 2010 publication of the PISA results (the ones which Mr Gove constantly compares with the redacted 2000 results despite the OECD warning against this). I quote from the press release:

"The best school systems were the most equitable - students do well regardless of their socio-economic background. But schools that select students based on ability early show the greatest differences in performance by socio-economic background".

Mr Gove says he wants his policies to be underpinned by evidence. The evidence from OECD couldn't be clearer yet Mr Gove ignores it because it doesn't fit with his prejudices.,3343,en_21571361_44315115_46623628_1_1...

JimC's picture
Sat, 17/09/2011 - 07:03

"Nowhere in the OECD report or in my analysis of it is there any mention of using inclusion as an excuse not to deal with badly-behaved pupils."

Of course there isn't if you are going to run a puff piece for inclusion you are hardly going to mention any negative consequences are you.

"Mr Gove says he wants his policies to be underpinned by evidence. The evidence from OECD couldn’t be clearer yet Mr Gove ignores it because it doesn’t fit with his prejudices."

This is a bit rich given that you've linked to Andreas Schliecher ignoring evidence from his own organisations research and publishing a vision for 21st century learning based on what can only be described as his own predujices.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 17/09/2011 - 09:12

"Andreas Schleicher is a studiously neutral grey-haired bureaucrat who goes well out of his way to avoid saying anything that could possibly be construed as controversial, unless it is backed up with cast-iron facts."

"A US magazine recently described him as "the world's schoolmaster". Bad Pisa results have sent countries into political shock, and education secretary Michael Gove has called the German the most important man in British education."

The views of someone who is regarded as scrupulously fair and whose views are widely known to be underpinned by evidence can hardly be described as peddling "his own prejudices". Even Mr Gove holds Mr Schleicher in high esteem. Unfortunately, Mr Gove's words are empty flattery - they are not followed by action. Mr Gove cherry-picks positive comments (even when followed by qualifications) and ignores OECD warnings about such things as the unreliability of PISA 2000 UK figures, the possible negative consequences of the free school/academy programme, excess emphasis on exam grades, the possibility of teaching to the test, "gaming", ignoring non-cognitive skills and so on).

JimC's picture
Sat, 17/09/2011 - 12:35

"The views of someone who is regarded as scrupulously fair and whose views are widely known to be underpinned by evidence can hardly be described as peddling “his own prejudices”."

And exactly what evidence underpins this particular piece of ideological puffery;,3746,en_2649_201185_46846594_1_1_1_1,00...

"Even Mr Gove holds Mr Schleicher in high esteem."

Given the number of times the LSN questions what Micheal Gove has to say I'm surprised you think he is such a reliable judge of character.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 18/09/2011 - 14:48

“Even Mr Gove holds Mr Schleicher in high esteem.”

Unfortunately irony doesn't come over very well in on-line comments. In reality Mr Gove says he holds Mr Schleicher in high esteem, but it's an example of Govean flattery. If Mr Gove really did hold Mr Schleicher in high esteem he would actually take notice of him.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 18/09/2011 - 15:02

Jim C: "And exactly what evidence underpins this particular piece of ideological puffery" (followed by link to the thoughts of Andreas Schleicher re the skills needed for a modern world)

Rather than ask me, why don't you contact Mr Schleicher directly and find out where he gets the evidence for his "ideologocal puffery". Details here:,3746,en_2649_39263238_21684438_1_1_1_1...

In the meantime, you can hear from the man himself (but be warned, the music is loud and intrusive):

JimC's picture
Sun, 18/09/2011 - 18:09

So thus far the only person you can name who 'holds Schleicher in high esteem' actually doesn't think much of him at all.

JimC's picture
Sun, 18/09/2011 - 18:16

If I've actually got to contact him to find out where he gets his ideas from it doesn't say much for the notion that it is widely known that his ideas are underpinned by evidence.

JimC's picture
Sun, 18/09/2011 - 18:41

Thanks for the video link by the way. I noticed that Schleicher name drops Finland as the best education system in Europe. Aside from 'learning through play' for younger children I'm not seeing much of Schleicher's beloved creativity once formal educaton begins.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 19/09/2011 - 14:28

Jim C - please read the TES article above re Andreas Schleicher. Then the following about his being honoured in Germany.,3746,en_2649_39263238_2507025_1_1_1_1,...

And there's this from the Goethe Institute:

A potted biography at the World Bank (Mr Gove doesn't seem to get a mention):

And here's an interview with the Learning First Alliance USA entitled "Learning from the Leaders":

And this from an International Summit of Education Experts in Canada last year: "He [Andreas Schleicher] is the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including the Theodor Heuss Prize, awarded in the name of the first president of the Federal Republic of Germany for “exemplary democratic engagement”. He holds an honorary professorship at the University of Heidelberg." (Mr Gove wasn't at the summit).

It's clear that Andreas Schleicher is an education heavyweight who knows his stuff. His opinions are sought and respected around the world. He makes Mr Gove look like a midget.

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