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Better left in the dark?

Telling teenagers they need advice and counselling to get them through their exams may do more harm than good, a study in England has found.

Intervention may mean that young people accept the judgment, lose motivation and turn a prediction into reality.

The first Underaspirers experiment, run by the CEM Centre at Durham University, identified a group of 14-16s who appeared to be turned off by education. Schools were told about them but not about a similar group which was tracked.

When GCSE exam results were compared, the pupils who had been identified and received more counselling did significantly worse.

However, an updated study among 23 schools south of the border is about to show a different set of results. Fourteen schools which worked with named pupils turned in positive results while nine did not.

A third study is under way.

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