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.
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.