Bringing back grammar schools will lower the national IQ

Roger Titcombe's picture

The new Conservative Prime Minister has indicated her willingness to allow the creation of new grammar schools and selection at age 11 in the English education system.

The arguments of the proponents are as follows.

  1. It will increase social mobility by providing a better education for bright children from poor backgrounds.
  2. We have academic selection for post-16 education so why not at 11?
  3. Bright children make better academic progress in grammar rather than in comprehensive schools.
  4. Grammar schools get better exam results than comprehensives.
  5. Less academic children are better suited to a more practical education.

The opponents argue:

  1. You can’t create new grammar schools without also creating new secondary moderns, whatever you call them.
  2. Less able children do better in fully comprehensive schools than they do in secondary moderns.
  3. Although grammar schools get better exam results than comprehensives this is because of their selective admissions and the overall performance of schools in fully comprehensive areas is better than in areas that have selection for grammar schools at age 11.
  4. It is socially destructive to divide families and communities by selecting children for different schools at age 11.
  5. The 11 plus test does not reliably select children with the most academic potential anyway.
  6. The 11 plus test encourages affluent parents to pay for private tuition to pass the 11 plus selection and this is unfair because poorer parents cannot afford to do this.
  7. Grammar schools are highly socially as well as academically selective.

The evidence favours the arguments of the opponents rather than the proponents. Much of it is explained in Henry Stewart’s article here and through other articles and comments on this website. Regrettably it appears likely that, as with so much else that has gone wrong with the English Education system under both Labour and Conservative governments, the evidence is unlikely to be a major factor in the ultimate decision of Theresa May’s government.

My argument against grammar schools and any kind of selection at age 11 between or within schools is different.  Academic selection at age 11 lowers our national IQ.

My book, ‘Learning Matters‘, argues the case for a developmental approach to education. It is based on the idea that attainment, in all its forms and contexts, is founded on generalabilities and that it is the job of schools to recognise and to promote the development of these underlying abilities. At the same time a school should be maximising students’ attainment in their academic studies and nurturing the physical, artistic and social skills that grow out of these talents and abilities. My book draws heavily on the work and ideas of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky.

Although the basis for the routine work of Educational Psychologists for more than half a century and the current Cognitive Ability Tests (CATs) based admissions systems for hundreds of state funded schools since the inception of the Academies programme, the general intelligence factor ‘g’ is a concept about which much heat has been generated. Many left-inclined educationalists still begin any discussion in this area with an IQ denial statement of some form. ‘Learning Matters’ addresses these concerns in detail and includes a discussion of Howard Gardner’s, ‘Multiple Intelligences’ and Steven Gould’s, ‘The Mismeasure of Man’, much quoted by many on the left to support their discomfort with ‘general intelligence’.

Chapter 12 of ‘Bad Education – Debunking Myths in Education’ (2012) edited by Philip Adey and Justin Dillon, also addresses the myths of both ‘intelligence fixed at birth’ and ‘multiple intelligences’. My arguments against grammar school selection are based on the validity of general intelligence as set out by Adey and others, but with the insistence that although resilient, such general intelligence is plastic and that its development should be the priority of all good schooling.

Plastic general intelligence is a significantly different concept to ‘fixed intelligence conferred at birth’. It opens the door to the development of the intellect of all children (and indeed adults) through good quality education. However much educational practice commonly believed to be ‘good’ is in fact ‘bad’ because it does not result in cognitive growth. That is a theme that runs throughout ‘Learning Matters’.

Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University wrote in his book, ‘The Blank Slate

I find it surreal to find academics denying the existence of intelligence. Academics are obsessed with intelligence. They discuss it endlessly in considering student admissions, in hiring faculty and staff, and especially in their gossip about one another. Nor can citizens or policy makers ignore the concept, regardless of their politics. People who say IQ is meaningless will quickly invoke it when the discussion turns to the execution of a murderer with an IQ of 64, removing lead paint that lowers a child’s IQ by 5 points, or the presidential qualifications of George W. Bush. 

For those that are interested in further exploration of these arguments I recommend the ‘Afterword’ by Charles Murray in the ‘The Bell Curve‘ (R.J. Herrnstein, C. Murray, 1994). This book gained notoriety mainly for a section on racial and ethnic variations in IQ. While I disagree with the authors about the plasticity of cognitive ability of which, not being educationalists, they  appear to be ignorant, I judge their book to be a work of great scholarship and moderation on the question of general intelligence. It is unjustifiably reviled by many on the left of politics.

In an email to me of March 2012 Philip Adey, now sadly deceased, wrote the following:

you are right about the intelligence problem; the left are frightened by it and the right give it too much credence. I have been trying to argue for years that once you accept that general intelligence is plastic, it ceases to be the bogey-man ushering in racism etc. and becomes a great opportunity.

The main theme of ‘The Bell Curve’ is that intelligence matters, individually, collectively and nationally. It sets out in detail, with powerful supporting evidence, how higher IQ is positively linked with the vocational performance of all workers in all fields, including those involved in manual labour.

Like many towns, our local refuse collection service is now outsourced to a private company whose vehicles display a notice, ‘WARNING – OPERATIVES AT WORK’, suggesting that an education that develops general intelligence through providing studies in academic subjects would be wasted on ‘operatives’, whose function is merely to do as they are instructed as fast as possible. In our town this includes having to run alongside their vehicle in order to keep up with it.

But as well as earning a living, ‘operatives’ have to make choices about how and where they live, their purchases, diets and lifestyles. It is obvious that not only are such choices of profound importance for the individuals concerned they also have ramifications for the quality of our national life and our prosperity. It is not patronising to recognise that in a market economy exploitative predators lurk, seeking to trap the unwary into making irrationally unwise decisions.

‘Operatives’ may also be parents. It is well established that the children of better educated parents do better at school.

‘Operatives’ also have the vote. See my article about the educational implications of the EU referendum.

But won’t an academic education be wasted on children whose cognitive ability is less developed? See the story of ‘Helen’.

What is value of an academic education to children whose cognitive ability is less developed? It is because of its potential for making ‘less able’ children cleverer and wiser. This is true at all levels at which academic studies are taught. Not only would the UK benefit from a better educated general population, but why shouldn’t we have cleverer, wiser and better informed refuse collectors, plumbers, electricians, bus drivers, care workers etc?

What does ‘non-academic’ mean? How is ‘academic’ to be defined and measured? The results of the cognitive ability tests (CATs) used by Academies to regulate their admissions display the classic bell curve continuous ‘normal distribution’. There is no distinctive level of performance in such tests, or any other tests, that could validly divide a population into academic and non-academic streams.

All you can say is that pupils with lower scores generally find academic studies more difficult. But does this mean they shouldn’t be allowed access to them? Pupils are ‘turned off’ learning by poor teaching using inappropriate and undifferentiated teaching methods, not by the subjects themselves. What about technology and the arts? Are these subjects academic or vocational? Are we to assume that our most academically able pupils should be directed away from cooking, dance, drama and art, or that less academic pupils don’t need to study and understand history, geography, literature, science and a foreign language?

Section 2.3 of ‘Learning Matters’ is entitled, ‘The creation and growth of a cognitive underclass’. In the context of my book I outline the causes of the growing English cognitive underclass as being rooted in the neoliberal marketisation paradigm that is driving the English education system. When I wrote my book, bringing back grammar schools was not on the government’s education agenda. They had enough problems promoting their wretched and failing Academisation and Free School policies, which were also damaging social mobility.

So we come to the crux of my argument against grammar schools. Every new grammar school creates at least three similar sized secondary moderns. How can these schools still meet the GCSE ‘C’ grade performance thresholds imposed by the government? Only by abandoning any serious  attempt to provide a cognitively demanding, broad and balanced education, through developmental teaching methods. Such empowering education will be replaced by training and the teaching methods of behaviourism will dominate. This already happens in comprehensive schools that have an intake cognitive ability profile skewed towards lower CATs scores.

These teaching methods do not result in cognitive development and will not make our school leavers cleverer or wiser, which is what is really needed.

Even when the marketisation and competition model is finally abandoned along with the ‘Tyranny of testing‘ required to drive it, secondary modern schools will find it more difficult to provide a full, broad and balanced curriculum for all pupils.

Part 4 of ‘Learning Matters’ is a case study of ‘Mossbourne Academy’ and the Hackney LA’s policy of ensuring all-ability intakes in its secondary schools, LA maintained and Academies alike. I argue that the main factor in the success of Mossbourne Academy is down not to its Academy status, but to its all-ability intake. The first Principal of Mossbourne Academy and the current (2016) Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, is very clear about the superiority of all ability comprehensive schools compared to a mixture of grammar and secondary moderns. This is from a Guardian article of 14 December 2013.

In comments that put him on a collision course with education secretary Michael Gove, who has expressed support for grammar schools. Wilshaw said: “Grammar schools are stuffed full of middle-class kids. A tiny percentage are on free school meals: 3%. That is a nonsense. What we have to do is make sure all schools do well in the areas in which they are located.

But will degradation and impoverishment of the education available to 11 plus failures be more than made up for by ‘grammar school excellence’ for the more able? The following questions are crucial.

  1. Is the quality of teaching better in grammar schools than in comprehensives?
  2. Do grammar schools support the learning of bright children from poorer homes better than comprehensives?

There is no evidence that either is the case. As Head of OfSTED, Sir Michael Wilshaw should know.

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ian thompson's picture
Tue, 30/08/2016 - 15:24

Robert Coe from Durham University answered your questions some time ago: 'the majority of studies (and all of those we judge to be methodologically strongest) report that pupils who attend grammar schools do better than equally able pupils in comprehensives'.

When Coe et al looked at pupils for themselves who had achieved three level 5s at KS2 as a measure of ability equitable to grammar school entry they found that in maths GCSE comprehensive school pupils achieved 49% A*/As compared with grammar school pupils' 72%, comparable figures for English were 48% and 70%, and the figures for separate sciences were 50% and 70%.

Or if you like there is this from Ofsted, if they 'should know' :

'The proportion of students who had achieved Level 5 in English at the end of Year 6 going on to achieve at least grade B at English GCSE was 77% in 2014. This means that 32,000 (23%) most able students attained a grade C or lower and so failed to make the progress they should in this important subject. The difference for most able students attending selective schools is noticeable, with 92% achieving at least a grade B at GCSE. Only 8% of the most able students (1,357) in selective schools did not make the progress they should.
The national picture is similar for mathematics. Almost a quarter of students attending non-selective schools who achieved a Level 5 in mathematics at the end of primary school failed to gain at least a grade B in the same subject at GCSE. This is again in sharp contrast to the performance of students in selective schools, where the corresponding figure is only 5%'.

Finally returning to Coe et al for your second question they put it like this 'Our finding that pupils with Free School Meals who get into grammar schools do relatively better could be re-expressed as saying that FSM is more of a disadvantage if you go to a comprehensive than it is if you go to a grammar school'

'no evidence that either is the case'? That is just not true is it?

Roger Titcombe's picture
Tue, 30/08/2016 - 17:25

The problems with your argument are many including that a) KS2 SATs scores are not a reliable indicator of the cognitive ability of the child (unlike CATs test scores) and b) that there is a big difference in outcome depending on whether the child gains 5a/b/c in their SATs.

This issue is addressed in this article

The essential point is that it is cognitive ability that counts in relation to the obtaining of the top grades at GCSE, especially in maths, not SATs scores. Secondly there is a well established relationship between mean cognitive ability and relative family affluence. The latter is crudely indicated by %Free School Meals (FSM). For your argument to be valid the FSM profiles of grammar and comprehensive schools would have to be the same. They are not, big time. The average FSM proportion in most grammar schools is tiny.

Both issues are addressed by looking at the performance of pupils in Hackney, where all pupils take CATs tests in Y6 of primary school as part of the Hackney system of 'Fair Banding' admissions system.

This is described in Part 4 of my book, 'Learning Matters', which is a case study of Mossbourne Academy, from which the following is an extract.

"Cumbria is an unlikely local authority to choose to compare with Hackney. Cumbria is geographically one of the largest and least densely populated Local Authorities in England. It is predominantly rural and affluent over most of its area. Hackney is one of the smallest, most densely populated, largely urban and one of the most deprived, although significant pockets of affluence certainly exist, and growing numbers of professionals appear to be moving to parts of the borough.

However what Hackney shares with Cumbria is that all of its pupils took Cognitive Ability Tests at age 10 or 11 and that I happen to possess a substantial amount of these CATs data. My Cumbria data are not recent (up to 2004) whereas my Hackney data are up to 2011. In 2004 there were 42 state funded Cumbria secondary schools whereas in 2011 Hackney had just 12. In 2004, Cumbria schools’ average intake CAT score was 100, the same as Mossbourne Academy in 2011. Given that three Hackney schools do not take part in the banding process I cannot calculate the mean CAT score for Hackney. I have estimated it to be in the range 95-97.

The five lowest mean school secondary admission CATs scores in Cumbria in 2004 were, 91, 92, 94, 95 and 95. These were all schools serving poor areas in the former industrial towns of South and West Cumbria except for one that served a large and notoriously deprived council estate in the City of Carlisle. The five highest mean school CAT scores (leaving out the single Cumbria selective grammar school) were, 105, 104, 104, 104 and 102. These schools are all in affluent country towns. None of the Cumbria schools with a mean score around 100 (the Mossbourne score) served communities with any significant proportion of social deprivation.

What this shows is that although Mossbourne does indeed take a very high proportion of its pupils from poor families living in the most deprived parts of the borough, its admissions policy succeeds in selecting the most able of these while rejecting a much larger number of others of lower cognitive ability. Mossbourne therefore truly does have an intake characterised by a significant degree of social deprivation, but it also has an intake ability profile typical of a socially and economically mixed community in an English shire county (where most grammar schools are to be found).

This should not be taken to diminish the achievement of Mossbourne as a comprehensive school. Having selected a disproportionate number of bright children from its deprived neighbourhood community it is still necessary to provide the support, ethos and culture needed for these pupils to succeed. Mossbourne appears to be meeting this challenge.

The Hackney secondary schools that participate in the 'fair banding' admissions system are a mixture of Academies, Religious and LA Community Schools. I suspect that they would all claim similar levels of success with their grammar school admission ability pupils (CATs > 110 - top 25%) as Mossbourne Academy, which stands comparison with any grammar school despite its very high FSM intake that does not apply to grammar schools.

A further issue relates to the fact that you are comparing grammar schools with 'comprehensives', but in selective LAs the 'comprehensives' are really 'Secondary Moderns'. Other comprehensive schools with intakes skewed towards lower CATs scores may find it more difficult to provide fully for the small number of their more able pupils. This is because the high stakes nature of our marketised school system requires such schools to concentrate their efforts on getting Ds up to Cs, rather than Cs up to Bs, As and A*s.

This issue is addressed here

All very complicated isn't it? In summary, to compare the grammar school system with comprehensives, such schools have to be compared with genuinely all ability comprehensives such as Mossbourne Academy, rather than with all comprehensives, a high proportion of which are more like Secondary Moderns.

I note that you do not address the other vital argument that even if bright pupils did do better in grammar schools (which they don't if the comparison is with all ability comprehensives) then 11 plus failures do MUCH WORSE in grammar school areas.

ian thompson's picture
Tue, 30/08/2016 - 21:29

You made it complicated by introducing serial irrelevancies starting with cognitive tests. As well as its use in Ofqual's 'comparable outcomes' strategy for GCSEs, KS2 data is used widely to predict the likely performance, and set targets for individual candidates as part of the ‘RAISEonline system’. To support this use of KS2 data, Treadaway compared the predictive power of several measures of prior attainment including Cognitive Ability Tests (CATs) and MidYis3 assessments taken in Year 7 to the predictive power of KS2. He showed that KS2 achievement was more strongly correlated with achievement at GCSE than either CATs or MidYis.

You then dismissed an overwhelming body of rigorous peer reviewed research without producing any to counter it. Ofsted and Coe compared non-selective schools, which included 'secondary moderns' if that is what you want to call them, with grammar schools and found significant differences in achievement, and Coe controlled for the socio-economic factors to which you referred. Differences applied at the top end of ability but even more so for children who were eligible for free school meals.

But I understand your position better now; if you ignore evidence then to all intents and purposes it really does not exist.

ian thompson's picture
Tue, 30/08/2016 - 22:48

For the sake of clarity on the notion of 'secondary moderns' in grammar school areas it is probably worth noting this, again from Coe's paper on selective education systems:

'the choice of comparison group does not seem to matter too much. Grammar schools can most simply be compared with all other schools. If we try to define selective units in order to group grammar schools with their associated ‘creamed schools’ (whether or not they are officially designated as ‘secondary moderns’) in order to compare them with non-selective units, we find that the performance of these ‘creamed schools’ cannot really be distinguished from that of other non-grammar schools. Hence any such grouping serves merely to dilute any grammar school effect, rather than to provide a compensating force of its own. This is perhaps fortunate, given the difficulty we have had in defining appropriate comparison groups earlier in the report. Moreover it is important since it suggests that whatever the grammar school effect, there does not appear to be any ‘secondary modern’ effect on performance (of these schools)'.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 01/09/2016 - 08:27

While attending a grammar may (I repeat, may) benefit those who attend, it has a negative effect on those who don't by increasing the effect of socio-economic background (see here).    Education systems should work for the majority of children not the minority.  The OECD found that countries which do best in PISA tests tend to be those which do not select until at least the end of lower secondary (age 15/16).

The so-called grammar school effect seems not to last once grammar-educated pupils get to university.  The Sutton Trust found in 2010 that pupils from comprehensive schools outperformed their equally qualified peers from both private and grammar schools.    This was confirmed in 2014 (see here for summary, here for full report).  The latter noted that while some schools, including selective schools (private and state) may be good at getting pupils high A level grades, they are less good at preparing pupils for university study.  

Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 01/09/2016 - 14:37

Now that we are into 'Progress 8', Treadaway's work that you quoted is out of date. See this latest article by Treadaway.

The reservations that Treadaway now has about SATs in relation to lack of stability over time arising from government interference do not apply to CATs.

SATs are based on a fixed programme of study prescribed by the government and subject to change from one year to another. Fresh examination papers are prepared every year. The government is party to the raw marks and appears to be involved in the decisions about mark thresholds for levels and hence the results.

Teachers prepare pupils rigorously for SATs. This includes hundreds of hours of rote learning, revision and practice tests. The government sets SATs targets for pupils, schools and the English education system. The jobs and pay of headteachers and teachers are dependent on SATs results. It is therefore a very ‘high-stakes’ system. This is why all the SATs based data that you quote is suspect.

CATs are quite different. The CAT is a norm-referenced test, standardised to produce an average score of 100 for the whole population. There is no programme of study, no revision and no political interference. The CAT is also a strong predictor of future academic success, but is independent of government interference and not susceptible to gaming and cheating by primary schools.

Academies and Free Schools that have 'ability banded' admissions systems use CATs not SATs for this purpose. Since the latter have to be purchased, but the former data are free, there must be a reason for this. Increasingly both LA schools and Academies that do not have banded admission systems still screen all their pupils with CATs in Y7 for purposes of target setting and ability grouping. An example is the ARK Academy Trust.

I note that you do not address my references to the success of the Hackney education system and Mossbourne Academy in particular. Where comprehensive schools are genuinely 'all ability', which they never can be in LAs that have grammar schools, the perverse incentives that arise from the OfSTED and DfE 'benchmark attainment targets' based on GCSE 'C' grade attainment do not apply because there is no shortage of abler pupils that can obtain GCSE 'C' and higher grades without recourse to the degraded, behaviourist teaching that characterise schools with lower ability intakes. In grammar school areas this will be all the other secondary schools.



The key point is that the very existence of selection at 11 for different schools guarantees that the grammar school system appears to get better results using the flawed approaches that you quote.

This is why selective systems have to be compared with systems with genuinely all ability comprehensives whose curriculum and pedagogy are not degraded by market forces and DfE attainment benchmarks.

All this is explained in my book.

ian thompson's picture
Thu, 01/09/2016 - 12:11

Institutional parameters that foster freedom of choice in education inevitably amplify socio-economic differences but that is not an argument against grammar schools, it could just as reasonably be used as an argument for a wholesale return to them. Freedom of choice in comprehensive education has led to the situation where the most socially selective schools in the country are not grammar schools but comprehensive schools. ( The OECD found that this system in England is not working for the majority, in fact it appears to be performing worse than almost anywhere else and while in other countries younger people perform better than older people that is not the case in England. (

Comprehensive school pupils who are most likely to go to university, those from the most socially selective and therefore highest performing schools, are also outperformed by their equally qualified peers from poorly performing comprehensive schools ( So it is equally true to say that top performing comprehensive schools may be good at getting pupils high A level grades, they are less good at preparing pupils for university study. If comprehensive school educated pupils make it to highly selective universities the difference in probability (6-10%) of achieving a good degree is tiny and more than offset by better A levels of the grammar and privately educated students.

But potentially able comprehensive school educated pupils don't have the opportunity to compete with grammar school and independent school educated pupils at university according to the Sutton Trust ( and government figures ( apparently in part because many have fallen by the wayside long before (

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 02/09/2016 - 09:18

The OECD 'Building Skills for all' which you cited contains many pertinent remarks re education in England (see my review here).   However, there is a flaw with the underlying data which the report seems to have ignored - the OECD warning that the results should be used with caution because of non-response.   This problem particularly affected England and Northern Ireland (see OECD response to my concerns here).

The OECD commented on the apparent lack of progress between older and younger people in England by saying the lack of “improvement” between younger and older adults was not “necessarily because performance has declined in England/Northern Ireland (UK) … but because it has risen so much faster in so many other countries across successive generation.'  In other countries, such as Korea, old people would have left school barely literate so improvement was measured from a much lower base than in England.  The adult skills survey, therefore, can't be used to show England is 'performing worse than almost anywhere else'.   And the OECD PISA tests show the UK performing at the OECD average in English and Maths, and ABOVE average in Science (hardly 'performing worse...').

Arguments about the performance of England in OECD tests are, however, irrelevant to the grammar school debate.  Selection, as I've said, worsens the effect of socio-economic background and this is not beneficial to an education system as a whole.


Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 02/09/2016 - 09:45

Ian - many 'top-performing' comps aren't really comprehensive.  They seem to employ means which keep low ability children from entering.   The admissions system in England needs radical overhaul to prevent so-called comprehensives from skewing their intake.  Perhaps CAT tests combined with banding could help in ensuring a truly comprehensive intake.

ian thompson's picture
Fri, 02/09/2016 - 14:29

They also keep poor high ability children from entering, but engineering social selection out of a 'comprehensive school' system is probably impossible, unlike setting up a fair system based on academic selection. That might be achieved by advancing the age of selection by three years and creating a credible alternative to an academic stream aimed at apprenticeships with close links to employers and free movement post-GCSE between them. Good apprenticeships are already more desirable than poor degrees so if people had any sense net movement would be out of the academic streams.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 02/09/2016 - 14:46

You don't need to engineer social selection. Its cognitive ability that counts not parental affluence. See

The Mossbourne GCSE/ A Level and CATs data show that in a good comprehensive school, pupils generally perform in accordance with their CATs scores. FSM status makes no difference.

The reason why SATs and GCSE data produce an 'attainment gap' is because cognitive ability is not taken taken into account, combined with the unwillingness to accept that high social deprivation postcodes are always associated with low mean CATs score school intakes. The proper response is a primary curriculum and teaching methods designed to raise cognitive ability rather than generate the SATs data needed to save the head's job and the school from compulsory academisation or closure.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 03/09/2016 - 07:45

Ian - advancing the age of selection would bring us more in line with most other developed countries where selection is delayed until the end of lower secondary (age 15/16).  This would indeed make sense.

Re social selection in comps - at the moment it's too easily possible.  There are sifting mechanisms which can create a perfect storm: faith, 'aptitude', supplementary information forms, catchment areas which avoid disadvantaged areas.  Added to that there are subtle deterrents: boasting an 'unashmedly academic curriculum' and an expectation thatall pupils will go to uni could deter parents of  below-average achievement; telling parents their child might be 'better off' elsewhere;  having an expensive uniform; dropping heavy hints about monthly 'voluntary' contributions.  The admission rules in England need serious overhaul to avoid these.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 01/09/2016 - 20:01

How can SATs based data be the basis for any justification for grammar schools given the concerns on the ground in schools?


ian thompson's picture
Fri, 02/09/2016 - 12:38

KS2 and GCSE data are what have been most available.

If the results of comparisons were more favourable to comprehensive schools I suspect that you would have more regard for them.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 02/09/2016 - 13:15

CATs data are readily available from the schools and LAs that use them. I received mountains of anonymised CATs data from Mossbourne Academy and the Hackney Learning Trust. Other CATs data from Cumbria was obtained through FoI. All of this is used in the study published as Part 4 of my book, 'Learning Matters'.

Mossbourne Academy and The Hackney Learning Trust co-operated fully with my work, which I shared with them at every stage. Although I say it myself, this study is essential reading in relation to school admissions, educational standards and relationship between the two.

I agree with Janet that their use should part of a reformed education system. I set out my proposals here.

agov's picture
Fri, 02/09/2016 - 13:19

"KS2 and GCSE data are what have been most available. "

Just so I'm keeping up, is that your way of admitting that the evidence is that SATs are unreliable compared to CATs but were used due to the lack of CATs data in the past?

Roger Titcombe's picture
Fri, 02/09/2016 - 14:33

Hello agov - I don't know if you are aiming this question at me or Ian.

Following the 1988 Education Act the government hijacked the GCSE system to provide the school performance indicators needed to drive the artificial market that it imposed onto secondary schools.

They then realised that a corresponding performance indicator was needed for primaries, so they invented SATs. Neither qualifications were in the best interests of the education of our children.

As with all privatisations of public services the result is a race to the bottom, with corrupted exams, degraded curriculum and the return of crude behaviourist teaching methods.

One result is reported here

The reason that the government bases everything on SATs and not CATs is that CATs cannot be used as crude school performance indicators.

With the growing evidence for plastic intelligence, it is now accepted that CATs scores, like IQ, are not stable and can be raised with the right kind of developmental teaching that is described and explained in, 'Learning Matters'. If we had a school accountability system based on gains in cognitive ability rather than jumping 'benchmark' SATs and GCSE parameters we would be on the way to a truly effective and empowering education system.

Does that answer your question?

agov's picture
Sat, 03/09/2016 - 10:25

Lamiastrum's picture
Mon, 05/09/2016 - 17:12

I suppose we might introduce a selection system which was based purely on passing an examination at 11 but that wasn't the only criterion used in the old days of grammar schools.  Children were admitted to grammar schools on the basis of both their scores in the 11 plus and the availability of places. So in areas where there were fewer grammar school places for girls than boys some girls gained higher marks in the 11 plus than boys yet failed. The boys with lower marks could be allocated grammar school places but the "failed" girls were sent to a secondary modern schools where in the early days they would have needed to leave school before being able to take publicly accredited exams like O level and A level.

 We could of course put that right by making sufficient places for both boys and girls in a future selective school system yet that attempt at creating a fairer test of ability would inevitably mean more places needed for girls than boys since we know that that at 11 they would outperform boys on most academic measures.

If that fairer selective system was introduced based purely on outcomes at 11 plus testing time we'd have the interesting situation of creating the majority sector, the secondary moderns, dominated by boys who had failed the 11 plus.  To me this sounds  like a recipe for some stunning underachievement even compared with the early sec. mods.  It might be quite tricky to make such schools attractive to the talented teachers who would be needed to make progress with such an intake.


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