How will schools be held accountable for the success of their pupils in selective counties?

Alan's picture
by Alan
In response to raising participation age the Government announced new destination measures when students leave school to be recorded in the league tables showing progression for post 16. Schools will be held accountable for the success of their pupils by a plan to publish information about the progression to university and jobs. However, there should be more focus on the progression to meaningful academic A-levels and transparency for transfer into upper grammar schools. Isolated areas such as Mablethorpe and Alford in Lincolnshire still have secondary modern schools with no sixth forms. Even if pupils work hard to achieve good grades the English baccalaureate will provide no bridge to A-levels.

Shire counties will have their work cut out providing credible destination measures considering grammar schools provide no concrete admissions arrangements for post 16. In many cases there are no places due to intakes from other towns outside of catchment areas.

The Government should try to ensure that grammar schools step up to the bar for all young people wanting to tread an academic path.

Pupils in our selective schools, appear not only to add value at GCSE they are also the pride of our county. Sophisticated discrimination, abound with excuses, is now in the fibre of our education, and to be frank, it’s shameful.

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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 24/11/2011 - 10:40

The destination measure showing how many pupils progress to Oxbridge will be misleading and unfair. It could also lead to schools putting pressure on pupils to apply to Oxbridge when it is not in their best interests. Pupils may have very good reasons why they wish to apply to particular universities - the increasing cost of higher education, for example, may encourage pupils to choose a university which is closer to their home.

Sutton Trust research director Lee Elliot Major describes why the measure will be misleading: “The numbers were going to be so low that they could fluctuate very dramatically from one year to the next. Our view was that it would be unfair to measure schools by such an extreme measure. For the majority of state schools you find that less than two or three pupils go (to Oxbridge) over a five to 10-year period, and for many schools none go at all."

Alan's picture
Thu, 24/11/2011 - 11:23

Unfair on both pupils and schools - but the value added works both ways. Schools in selective counties bemoan the removal of CVA - and rightly so - but they need to be more willing to work with communities and with other schools for pupil progression. This is not happening, hence my remark about grammar schools stepping up to the bar.

Alan's picture
Thu, 24/11/2011 - 11:34

Regarding the recent Ofsted report on high acheivements, pupils from poor backgrounds could be attributed to aspirations, but it’s difficult to see how they can be raised in areas where children are divided as young as 10 years old. Segregation has a knock-on effect, not only for children but also for schools, families and communities.

Although the following report by the JRF doesn’t tackle selection it does provide an alignment between aspirations and local context.

The study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (see link) researchers admit aspirations aren’t well understood, but to feel positive about one’s prospects has surely to play some part in raising attainment levels.

“A central question for the study was the influence on young people’s aspirations of living in disadvantaged places. The research involved pupils in three schools drawing from neighbourhoods with strong evidence of deprivation, but with otherwise markedly different social and economic contexts. Across all three locations, young people had a very high degree of exposure to local influences, particularly local norms, beliefs and expectations about what is important in life. The study provided little evidence that deprivation influenced aspirations as such, but strongly supported the significance of specific places.”

“The study found clear alignment between what parents said they wanted for their children, and what young people aspired to. Supporting aspirations involves working with parents as well as with young people, particularly where parents face disadvantage themselves. This is a key strategy for ensuring that pathways to achieving young people’s aspirations are known and clear to all involved.”

“Aspirations are strongly influenced by place, and it follows that policies to address them must be local. A universal approach is likely to be less effective because of the distinctive nature of how aspirations are formed in different types of social setting.”

“The authors conclude that policy to increase social mobility needs to go beyond assumptions about certain communities having low aspirations – it needs to tackle barriers to fulfilling them. Policies also need tailoring to the specifics of areas. Better information is required to support young people in understanding how schooling, post-compulsory education and work fit together.”

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 24/11/2011 - 13:51

Thanks for the link to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation study, Alan. Although it was published in October it doesn't seem to have had much publicity. This is a shame because it highlights, among other things, how parental attitude affects children's aspirations. It also stresses the critical importance of high-quality, objective careers education and guidance (CEG). It's not enough to have aspirations - children and their parents need to know how to reach these goals. John Hayes, the Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning, is a passionate advocate of CEG and had a clause inserted in the Education Act to say that schools have a statutory duty to offer unbiased careers advice. Unfortunately, there's no money offered so schools (especially those with sixth forms) could just fulfil this obligation by offering the cheapest option - something like access to a website.

Alan's picture
Thu, 24/11/2011 - 15:23

Sorry for the delayed reply – flu bug!

I have always been conscious that parental aspirations play a key part in supporting children with learning. It’s frustrating that the finger is pointed so many times to parents without apparent consideration that education bears its fair share of responsibility - not providing equality of opportunity for children from inspirational poor families springs to mind. so much for breaking intergenerational cycles of underachievement.

Thanks for the info on CEG and for the Minister’s details. I agree that young people need to know how to reach their goals, but goals in our neck of the woods are too distant for many children from less well-off families against the backdrop of selection.

I guess where there’s a will there’s a way. We’re in the process of looking at means for reducing inequalities through interventions such as family literacy recovery programmes so children will be better placed to start school.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 24/11/2011 - 16:27

One possible consequence of selection is that aspirations may be reduced when a child is told at the age of 10 that s/he's not in the top 25% and, therefore, can't expect to go to university or gain access to top jobs.

It's also correct that in rural areas like Lincolnshire, where there are scattered communities and poor local transport, there are fewer opportunities especially for disadvantaged children and their families.

Alan's picture
Thu, 24/11/2011 - 17:10

The consequences of not being selected at 10 years old were put to me by a top academic almost a year ago. He told me that it was unlikely that children would make it to university because the odds were stacked against them from the outset (we spoke about chaos theory and the snowball effect). To change the odds in our rural area we need stronger links to the ‘outside world’. I believe universities are trying to raise aspirations by relaxing their admissions arrangements to account for the value added by schools and local communities. But it's always against the backdrop of selection.

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