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Partially selective schools 'are no better for pupil outcomes', report finds

And some outcomes for pupils with low prior attainment are worse at partially selective schools than in non-selective schools, new analysis shows

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And some outcomes for pupils with low prior attainment are worse at partially selective schools than in non-selective schools, new analysis shows

There is no academic benefit to attending a partially selective school – and pupils with low prior attainment are significantly less likely to achieve good GCSEs than at non-selective schools, a new report has found. 

The analysis from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) published today compares the results of pupils at 38 partially selective schools in England with comparable pupils at similar, non-selective schools. 

It follows the government's Green Paper The Schools That Work for Everyone which has proposed support "to establish new partially selective schools".

But today's report states: “Overall, the main message from this research is that partially selective schools are no better in terms of pupil outcomes than non-selective schools. According to some measures they are worse."

Pupils with high prior attainment in partially selective schools are less likely (around 5 percentage points) to achieve their expected progress in mathematics compared to their non-selective school counterparts, the findings show. 

And pupils with low prior attainment in partially selective schools were found to be 8 per cent less likely to achieve five A* to C grades at GCSE (including English and maths) than their peers in non-selective schools.

Partially selective schools currently take more than 10 per cent of their places by ability and/or aptitude and the remainder on standard criteria. But the schools have very different admissions policies, as shown by a TES analysis

The report concludes that some partially selective schools have "highly complex admission arrangements" which may act as a barrier to applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds.

But compared to fully selective grammar schools - which have around 3 per cent of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) - the partially selective schools take an average of 11 per cent of FSM pupils. 

The NFER has called for: 

  • the government to conduct further research before allocating public funds to the expansion of academic selection
  • the government to consider requiring all selective and partially selective schools and local authorities to make 11+ test results available for research purposes to enable evidence to be gathered on the effects of selection
  • further research to investigate selection and partial selection in relation to issues such as parental attitudes, understanding and behaviours, and the further education, higher education and employment destinations of pupils

Carole Willis, NFER chief executive, said: “Schools are already coping with considerable change in an education landscape that is continuing to evolve. Further changes need to be based on sound analysis of whether they are likely to achieve the desired outcomes.

"This analysis suggests partial selection is not an effective way of increasing the number of good school places.”

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